Cardinal Re: The Eucharist is the center and heart of the life of the Church
Victor Vladimirov – Vatican City
In his sermon, the hierarch commented on the Gospel reading about the Lord’s last meal with His closest disciples: “Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father. Having loved His own who are in this world, He loved them to the end ”(cf. Jn 13: 1). These solemn words of the Evangelist John, the cardinal noted, tell that at the hour of farewell Christ gives to people Himself, establishing the Eucharist and priesthood, entrusting to the disciples of all times the commandment of brotherly love. The Lord loved them to the end, right up to the painful death on the Cross, and during these hours His love reaches an unsurpassed degree. Therefore, the evening of Holy Thursday, the cardinal noted, reminds Christians of a concrete testimony of the Lord’s love: the Son of God has given us all of Himself without a trace – His Body and Blood. For our redemption, He willingly accepted the most shameful death at Calvary.
“The existence of the Eucharist is explained only by the fact that Christ loved us and wanted to be with each of us throughout all ages, until the end of the world. Only in God’s plan could such a great gift appear, and only infinite power and love could bring it. ”
The Church, the Vatican hierarch emphasized, always considered the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the most valuable gift and drew abundantly from it. The Lord accompanies us as light, strength, food and support throughout all the days of our history. Speaking about the Eucharist, the Second Vatican Council declares that it is “the peak towards which the activity of the Church aspires, and at the same time the source from which all her strength emanates” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10); this is “the pinnacle of all Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, eleven). The Eucharist is the center and heart of the life of the Church, and it should be so for every Christian:
“Those who believe in the Eucharist never feel alone. He knows that in the shadows and silence of all churches there is one who knows his name and his history – the one who loves, waits and listens attentively to him. Before the tabernacle, each person can open his heart and receive consolation, strength and hearty peace. “
The Eucharist is a reality, in which one must not only believe, but also live by it, testifying of brotherly love, of solidary service to the poor, the suffering, the rejected. The light of the Eucharist allows us to see the face of Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are wounded and in need of urgent help.
The second mystery that the Church recalls on the evening of Maundy Thursday, the preacher noted, is the establishment of the Sacrament of the Priesthood. Christ, the true Priest, commanded the apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in remembrance of Him, and three days later, on the evening of Easter Sunday, gave them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins (see John 20:23). Thus, Christ poured out priestly authority on the apostles, so that the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation would continue to be celebrated in the Church, and this is an exceptional gift for all mankind.
From the Lord, who has experienced physical suffering and loneliness, we want to draw the necessary strength to withstand the enormous challenges of the pandemic, which claims thousands of lives every day across the planet. To stop this drama, we must resort to all human, scientific means, but one irreplaceable step is required. We are called to pray with one accord that the right hand of the Lord will come to our aid and put an end to this tragic situation, fraught with dire consequences for health care, the world of work, the economy, education and human relations. According to Christ Himself, it is necessary to persistently knock on the door of God, the Almighty Father (see Mt 7: 7-8).
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re noted that the Scriptures call the time of the Last Supper, the highest manifestation of love and friendship, “the night on which the Lord Jesus was betrayed”. At one table in the Jerusalem upper room, God’s love and human betrayal clashed. In the story of the boundless love of Christ, who loved us “to the end,” there is the bitterness of human unfaithfulness. Thus, Holy Thursday is also a call to realize your own sins, put your life in order and embark on the path of repentance and renewal.
At the end of the sermon, the dean of the College of Cardinals emphasized that in the Eucharist God came so close to us that we can no longer feel forgotten and abandoned: the loving Lord is always looking for us and invites us to accept the joy of His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is how we can begin personal spiritual regeneration with a heart more open to God and to all of our brothers and sisters.