Entering the 'hour'
Personal transformation means embracing Christ,
especially in the Eucharist
On Sunday morning, 21 August , the Holy Father returned to
Marienfeld Esplanade where he presided at Holy Mass for the conclusion
of the World Youth Day with more than 1 million young people. German
President Horst Köhler
and other political and civil dignitaries were also present. The German
and foreign Bishops and the Cardinals and Bishops of the Papal entourage
were concelebrating at the traditional Missa mundi, whose
separate liturgical sections were accompanied by music played on
instruments from the five continents. The following is a translation of
the Pope's Homily, which was given in various languages.
Dear Young Friends,
Yesterday evening we came together in the presence of the Sacred
Host, in which Jesus becomes for us the bread that sustains and feeds us
(cf. Jn 6:35), and there we began our inner journey of adoration. In the
Eucharist, adoration must become union.
At the celebration of the
Eucharist, we find ourselves in the "hour" of Jesus, to use the language
of John’s Gospel. Through the Eucharist this "hour" of Jesus becomes our
own hour, his presence in our midst. Together with the disciples he
celebrated the Passover of Israel, the memorial of God’s liberating
action that led Israel from slavery to freedom. Jesus follows the rites
of Israel. He recites over the bread the prayer of praise and blessing.
But then something new happens. He thanks God not only for the great
works of the past; he thanks him for his own exaltation, soon to be
accomplished through the Cross and Resurrection, and he speaks to the
disciples in words that sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophets:
"This is my Body, given in sacrifice for you. This cup is the New
Covenant in my Blood". He then distributes the bread and the cup, and
instructs them to repeat his words and actions of that moment over and
over again in his memory.
What is happening? How can Jesus distribute his Body and his Blood?
By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, he
anticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart and he transforms it
into an action of love. What on the outside is simply brutal violence,
from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the
substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and
was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading
ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in
all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).
Secret to world renewal
In their hearts, people always and everywhere
have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world. Here now
is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the
world: violence is transformed into love, and death into life.
this act transmutes death into love, death as such is already conquered
from within, the resurrection is already present in it. Death is, so to
speak, mortally wounded, so that it can no longer have the last word. To
use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear
fission in the very heart of being
— the victory of love over hatred,
the victory of love over death. Only this intimate explosion of good
conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that
little by little will change the world.
All other changes remain
superficial and cannot save. For this reason we speak of redemption:
what had to happen at the most intimate level has indeed happened, and
we can enter into its dynamic. Jesus can distribute his Body, because he
truly gives himself.
This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death
into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his
Body and Blood.
But it must not stop there, on the contrary, the process
of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ
are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We
are to become the Body of Christ, his own flesh and blood.
We all eat
the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way,
adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply
stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us, and
we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread
outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly
become the dominant measure of the world.
Entering into the 'hour'
I like to illustrate this new
step urged upon us by the Last Supper by drawing out the different
nuances of the word "adoration" in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is
proskynesis. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of
God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It
means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy,
but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we
ourselves can become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if
initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it.
can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last
Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio
to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love.
Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this
way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything
on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.
Let us return once more to the Last Supper. The new element to emerge
here was the deeper meaning given to Israel’s ancient prayer of
blessing, which from that point on became the word of transformation,
enabling us to participate in the "hour" of Christ. Jesus did not
instruct us to repeat the Passover meal, which in any event, given that
it is an anniversary, is not repeatable at will. He instructed us to
enter into his "hour".
We enter into it through the sacred power of the
words of consecration
— a transformation brought about through the
prayer of praise which places us in continuity with Israel and the whole
of salvation history, and at the same time ushers in the new, to which
the older prayer at its deepest level was pointing.
The new prayer
which the Church calls the "Eucharistic Prayer" – brings the Eucharist
into being. It is the word of power which transforms the gifts of the
earth in an entirely new way into God’s gift of himself and it draws us
into this process of transformation. That is why we call this action
"Eucharist", which is a translation of the Hebrew word beracha
thanksgiving, praise, blessing, and a transformation worked by the Lord:
the presence of his "hour". Jesus’s hour is the hour in which love
triumphs. In other words: it is God who has triumphed, because he is
Jesus’ hour seeks to become our own hour and will indeed become
so if we allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to
be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to
bring about. The Eucharist must become the centre of our lives.
Church tells us that the Eucharist is an essential part of Sunday, this
is no mere positivism or thirst for power. On Easter morning, first the
women and then the disciples had the grace of seeing the Lord. From that
moment on, they knew that the first day of the week, Sunday, would be
his day, the day of Christ the Lord. The day when creation began became
the day when creation was renewed. Creation and redemption belong
together. That is why Sunday is so important.
It is good that today, in
many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday
so as to constitute a "week-end" of free time. Yet this free time is
empty if God is not present.
Sunday gives us 'focus'
Dear friends! Sometimes, our initial
impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather
inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is
what gives a proper focus to your free time.
Do not be deterred from
taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is
because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must
learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it.
pledge ourselves to do this
— it is worth the effort! Let us discover
the intimate riches of the Church’s liturgy and its true greatness: it
is not we who are celebrating for ourselves, but it is the living God
himself who is preparing a banquet for us.
Through your love for the
Eucharist you will also rediscover the sacrament of Reconciliation, in
which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh
start in our lives.
Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy
cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.
In vast areas of the
world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if
everything would be just the same even without him.
But at the same time
there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with
everyone and everything.
People tend to exclaim: "This cannot be what
life is about!" Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God
there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to
discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be
sincere joy in the discovery. Yet if it is pushed too far, religion
becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and
some are even able to make a profit from it.
But religion constructed on
a "do-it-yourself" basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be
comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves.
people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus
Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to
guide others to him with conviction.
Scripture and 'Catechism'
This is why love for Sacred
Scripture is so important, and in consequence, it is important to know
the faith of the Church which opens up for us the meaning of Scripture.
It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church as her faith grows, causing
her to enter ever more deeply into the truth (cf. Jn 16:13).
Beloved Pope John
Paul II gave us a wonderful work in which the faith of centuries is
explained synthetically: the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I myself
recently presented the Compendium of the Catechism, prepared at the
request of the late Holy Father. These are two fundamental texts which I
recommend to all of you.
Obviously books alone are not enough. Form communities based on
In recent decades movements and communities have come to birth in
which the power of the Gospel is keenly felt. Seek communion in faith,
like fellow travellers who continue together to follow the path of the
great pilgrimage that the Magi from the East first pointed out to us.
The spontaneity of new communities is important, but it is also
important to preserve communion with the Pope and with the Bishops. It
is they who guarantee that we are not seeking private paths, but are
living as God’s great family, founded by the Lord through the twelve
Once again, I must return to the Eucharist. "Because there is one
bread, we, though many, are one body" says Saint Paul (1 Cor 10:17). By
this he meant: since we receive the same Lord and he gathers us together
and draws us into himself, we ourselves are one.
This must be evident in
our lives. It must be seen in our capacity to forgive. It must be seen
in our sensitivity to the needs of others. It must be seen in our
willingness to share. It must be seen in our commitment to our neighbours, both those close at hand and those physically far away, whom
we nevertheless consider to be close.
Today there are many forms of
voluntary assistance, models of mutual service, of which our society has
urgent need. We must not, for example, abandon the elderly to their
solitude, we must not pass by when we meet people who are suffering. If
we think and live according to our communion with Christ, then our eyes
will be opened. Then we will no longer be content to scrape a living
just for ourselves, but we will see where and how we are needed.
and acting thus, we will soon realize that it is much better to be
useful and at the disposal of others than to be concerned only with the
comforts that are offered to us.
I know that you as young people have
great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better
world. Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly
the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ;
in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to
discover the star that we follow as believers.
Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true
worshippers of God! Amen.