Wednesday, April 4, 2018

General Audience on the concluding rites

This morning's General Audience began at 9:30am (3:30am EDT) in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from other parts of the world.

In his speech, the Pope concluded the catechetical cycle on the Mass, focusing his meditation on the Concluding Rites.

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered specific greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and happy Easter!

Today, you see that there are flowers: flowers speak of joy, happiness.  In some places, Easter is also called Flowering Easter, because the risen Christ blooms; he is the new flower; our justification flowers; the holiness of the Church blossoms.  This is the reason why we have so many flowers today: they are our joy.  All this week, we are celebrating Easter, all week long.  Once more, let us all wish one another Happy Easter.  Let's say it together: Happy Easter, everyone! (The people respond: Happy Easter!).  I would like us all to wish Happy Easter - since he was the Bishop of Rome - to our beloved Pope Benedict, who is following the audience on television.  To Pope Benedict, let us all say Happy Easter (They all say: Happy Easter!).  And let us applaud him, loudly.

With today's catechesis, we conclude the cycle dedicated to the Mass, which is truly a commemoration, but not only like a memory; each time we celebrate the Mass, we live the Passion and the Resurrection of Jesus.  In the last audience, we spoke about Communion and the prayer after Communion; after this prayer, the Mass concludes with the blessing which is imparted by the priest and the people leave (cf General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 90).  Just as the Mass began with the sign of the cross, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is also in the name of the Trinity that we conclude the Mass, the liturgical action.

However, we know that while the Mass concludes, this is the beginning of our commitment to bear Christian witness.  Christians don't go to Mass in order to perform some weekly task and then forget about it, no.  Christians go to Mass in order to participate in the Passion and the Resurrection of the Lord and then to live as better Christians: to open themselves to living as Christian witnesses.  We leave the church in order to go in peace and to take God's blessing with us to be shared in our day-to-day activities, in our homes, in our places of work, among the occupations of the earthly city by glorifying the Lord with our lives.  But if we leave the church chatting and saying: look at this, look at that ... with long tongues, the Mass has not entered into our hearts.  Why?  Because we are not capable of living the Christian witness.  Every time that we leave Mass, we should leave better than we came in, with more life, with more strength, with more desire to bear Christian witness.  Through the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus enters into us, into our hearts and into our flesh, so that we can express in our lives the sacrament that we have received in faith (Roman Missal, Collect for Monday in the Octave of Easter).

From the celebration to life therefore, we are aware that the Mass finds its fulfillment in the concrete choices of those who are involved in the first person in the mysteries of Christ.  We should never forget that we celebrate the Eucharist in order to learn how to become men and women of the Eucharist.  What does this mean?  It means allowing Christ to act in and through our actions: so that his thoughts can be our thoughts, his sentiments can be ours, his choices can be our choices.  This is the secret to holiness: doing what Christ did is Christian holiness.  Saint Paul expresses this truth with precision when he speaks about his life in Jesus; he says it this way: I was crucified with Christ, and now it is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives in me.  And this life, which I live in the body, I live with faith in the Son of God, who has loved me and has given himself for me (Gal 2:19-20).  This is Christian witness.  Paul's experience also enlightens us: to the extent that we mortify our own egotism, which is to say allowing all that is opposed to the gospel and to the love of Jesus to die, and to create within ourselves enough space for the power of his Spirit to work.  Christians are men and women who allow their souls to be fortified with the strength of the Holy Spirit, after having received the Body and the Blood of Christ.  Let your soul be enlarged!  Not those souls that are closed and small, egotistic, no!  Wide souls, large souls, with grand horizons ... Let your souls be enlarged with the strength of the Spirit, after having received the Body and the Blood of Christ.

Since the real presence of Christ in the consecrated Bread does not end with the Mass (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374), the Eucharist is kept in the tabernacle for the distribution of Communion to the sick and for silent adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; in fact, Eucharistic worship outside of Mass, whether that is in private or communal form, helps us to remain in Christ (cf Catechism, 1378-1380).

Therefore, the fruits of the Mass are destined to mature in everyday life.  We can say - by forcing the image a bit - that the Mass is like a grain, a grain of wheat which grows and grows during its ordinary life and matures in good works, in attitudes that make us look more and more like Jesus.  The fruits of the Mass are therefore destined to help us mature in our everyday life.  In truth, by strengthening our union in Christ, the Eucharist strengthens the grace that the Spirit has given us at our Baptism and our Confirmation, in order that our Christian witness may be credible (cf Catechism, 1391-1392).

Again, by alighting divine charity in our hearts, what does the Eucharist do?  It separates us from sin: The more we participate in the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it will be to separate us from him through mortal sin (Catechism, 1395).

Regularly approaching the Eucharist renews, strengthens and deepens our bonds with the Christian community to which we belong, according to the principle that the Eucharist makes the Church (cf Catechism, 1396), it unites all of us.

Finally, participating in the Eucharist commits us to encountering others, especially the poor, teaching us to pass from the flesh of Christ to the flesh of our brothers and sisters, in whom he waits for us to recognize him, serve him, honour him and love him (cf Catechism, 1397).

Carrying the treasure of union with Christ in earthen vessels (cf 2 Cor 4:7), we need to return to the holy altar again and again until, in paradise, we will fully enjoy the beauty of the Lamb's wedding banquet (cf Rev 19:9).

Let us thank the Lord for the journey of rediscovering the Holy Mass that he has given to us and allows us to fulfill together, and let us be attracted with renewed faith to this real encounter with Jesus, who died and rose again for us; he is our contemporary.  And may our lives always bloom in this way, at Easter, with the flowers of hope, faith and good works.  May we always find the strength for this in the Eucharist and in union with Jesus.  Happy Easter to all of you!

The Holy Father's catechesis was then translated into various languages, and he offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Ireland, Croatia, Sweden, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States of America. I offer a warm welcome to the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College, together with their families and friends. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!

No comments: