June 23-25, 2000
volume 11, no. 112

The Holy Father's words in THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS for June 23-25, 2000
The Eucharist: Food of Missionaries

Pope John Paul II's Wednesday General Papal Audience from Wednesday, June 21, 2000

    1. "Jesus, Only Savior of the World, Bread of New Life": this is the theme of the forty-seventh International Eucharistic Congress which began last Sunday and will conclude next Sunday with the Statio Orbis in St. Peter's Square.

        The Congress locates the Eucharist at the center of the great Jubilee of the Incarnation and draws attention to all its spiritual, ecclesial and missionary profundity. It is from the Eucharist that the Church and every believer draw the indispensable strength to proclaim and witness to all people the Gospel of salvation. The celebration of the Eucharist, sacrament of the Lord's Pascal Mystery, is in itself a missionary event, which plants the fruitful seed of new life in the world.

        This missionary aspect of the Eucharist is explicitly recalled by St. Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes"(1 Corinthians 11:26).

    2. The Church echoes these words of St. Paul in the doxology after the consecration. The Eucharist is a "missionary" sacrament not only because it is the origin of the grace of the missions, but also because it contains within itself the principle and the perennial source of salvation for all people. Therefore the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the most effective missionary act that the ecclesial community can perform in world history.

        Every Mass concludes with the missionary mandate to "go", inviting the faithful to bring the proclamation of the Risen Lord to their families, their work environments, their societies, and to the entire world. This is why in the letter "Dies Domini" I invited the faithful to imitate the example of the disciples of Emmaus who, after having recognized the Risen Christ "in the breaking of the bread" (cf Lk 24:30-32), feel the need to go immediately to share with all the brethren the joy of their meeting with Him (cf n. 45). The "broken bread" opens the life of the Christian and of the entire community to the sharing and giving of self for the life of the world (cf Jn 6:51). It is precisely in the Eucharist that we realize the inseparable connection between communion and mission, that makes the Church the sacrament of unity for all human beings (cf "Lumen Gentium", 1).

    3. Today it is particularly necessary for every Christian community to draw the interior conviction and spiritual force from the Eucharistic Celebration to go out of itself and open itself to other communities that are poorer and more in need of support in the field of evangelization and of missionary cooperation, fostering that fruitful exchange of reciprocal gifts that enriches the whole Church.

        It is also very important to discern, in light of the Eucharist, vocations and missionary ministries. Like the primitive community of Antioch, which was united "in the celebration of the worship of the Lord", every Christian community is called to listen to the Spirit and to accept His invitations, reserving for the universal mission the best strength of his children, sent joyfully into the world and accompanied by prayer and the spiritual and material support which they need (cf Acts 13:1-3).

        The Eucharist is, moreover, a permanent school of charity, justice and peace, renewing the surrounding world in Christ. Believers draw from the presence of the Risen Lord the courage to be agents of solidarity and renewal, responsible for changing the structures of sin in which individuals, communities, and sometimes entire peoples, are trapped (cf "Dies Domini", 73).

    4. Finally, in this reflection on the significance and missionary content of the Eucharist we must not forget the martyrs, those unique "missionaries" and witnesses of the faith and love of Christ. The relics of the martyrs have from antiquity been placed under the altars, where the memorial of the "victim sacrificed for our reconciliation" is celebrated. They are a clear sign of the vigor that emanates from Christ's sacrifice. This spiritual energy conducts those for whom the Lord's body is food to offer their own lives for Him and for the brethren in the total gift of self, to the point, if necessary, of shedding one's blood.

        May the International Eucharistic Congress, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Christ Sacrificed for us, revive in believers the consciousness of the missionary responsibility that springs from participation in the Eucharist. The "body given" and the "blood poured" (cf Lk 22:19-20) make up the superior criteria to which we must always refer in giving ourselves for the salvation of the world. (ZENIT Translation) ZE00062120

June 23-25, 2000
volume 11, no. 112

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