Lord, awaken in us the desire for you: Holy Thursday Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
With the Eucharist, the Church is born
"I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you". Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe. Amen. - The great teacher Pope, Benedict XVI, instructs the faithful on how to grow in a living faith rooted in a true desire for the God who desires us.
Pope Benedict XVI Celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - As we enter into the Great Triduum, the Three Days, we share the homily given by the Successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, at the Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. We pray for all throughout the world who read and view Catholic Online, that you and those whom you love will receive all of the graces offered in the Liturgies of the Triduum. (Deacon Keith Fournier, Editor in Chief)
Holy Thursday Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Mass of the Lord's Supper
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
"I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Lk 22:15). With these words Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense, be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world.
In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself - his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfill the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things?
From Jesus' banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. For us, the empty places at the table of the Lord's wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way. Jesus also knew about guests who come to the banquet without being robed in the wedding garment - they come not to rejoice in his presence but merely out of habit, since their hearts are elsewhere. In one of his homilies Saint Gregory the Great asks:
"Who are these people who enter without the wedding garment? What is this garment and how does one acquire it? He replies that those who are invited and enter do in some way have faith. It is faith which opens the door to them. But they lack the wedding garment of love. Those who do not live their faith as love are not ready for the banquet and are cast out. Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead."
From all four Gospels we know that Jesus' final meal before his passion was also a teaching moment. Once again, Jesus urgently set forth the heart of his message. Word and sacrament, message and gift are inseparably linked. Yet at his final meal, more than anything else, Jesus prayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke use two words in describing Jesus' prayer at the culmination of the meal: "eucharístesas" and "eulógesas" - the verbs "to give thanks" and "to bless". The upward movement of thanking and the downward movement of blessing go together.
The words of transubstantiation are part of this prayer of Jesus. They are themselves words of prayer. Jesus turns his suffering into prayer, into an offering to the Father for the sake of mankind. This transformation of his suffering into love has the power to transform the gifts in which he now gives himself. He gives those gifts to us, so that we, and our world, may be transformed. The ultimate purpose of Eucharistic transformation is our own transformation in communion with Christ. The Eucharist is directed to the new man, the new world, which can only come about from God, through the ministry of God's Servant.
From Luke, and especially from John, we know that Jesus, during the Last Supper, also prayed to the Father - prayers which also contain a plea to his disciples of that time and of all times. Here I would simply like to take one of these which, as John tells us, Jesus repeated four times in his Priestly Prayer. How deeply it must have concerned him! It remains his constant prayer to the Father on our behalf: the prayer for unity. Jesus explicitly states that this prayer is not meant simply for the disciples then present, but for all who would believe in him (cf. Jn 17:20). He prays that all may be one "as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).
Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to him, to Jesus. Faith and love for Jesus, faith in his being one ...
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