Yesterday in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. He then led, on foot, the Eucharistic procession that wound along Rome’s Via Merulana, until reaching the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Following are ample extracts from the Holy Father’s homily, which focused on the Gospel story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
“In the Gospel we have just heard, there is an expression of Jesus that always strikes me: ‘Give them some food yourselves’. … who are the ones whom we should feed? … the crowd, the multitude. Jesus is in the midst of the people. He welcomes them; talks to them; heals them. He shows them God’s mercy. In their midst, He chooses the twelve Apostles to be with him and, like him, to immerse themselves in the concrete situations of the world. The people follow him and listen to him because Jesus speaks and acts in a new way, with the authority of someone who is authentic and consistent; someone who speaks and acts truthfully; someone who gives the hope that comes from God; one who is revelation of the face of the God who is love. And the people joyfully bless God.”
“This evening we are that crowd in the Gospel. We also strive to follow Jesus to listen to him, to enter into communion with him in the Eucharist, to accompany him, so that He might accompany us. Let us ask ourselves: how do I follow Jesus? Jesus speaks in silence, in the Mystery of the Eucharist, and every time He reminds us that following him means going out of ourselves and making our lives not our possession, but a gift to him and to others.”
“The invitation that Jesus extends to his disciples to feed the multitude themselves is born of two elements: most of all from the crowd that, having followed Jesus, now finds itself outside, far from inhabited areas, as evening falls, and then, from the disciples’ concern, who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd so that they might seek food and lodging in the nearby towns. Faced with the crowd’s needs, the disciples’ solution is for everyone to take care of themselves. … How many times do we Christians have this temptation! We do not care for the needs of others, dismissing them with a pitiful, ‘May God help you’. … But Jesus’ solution goes in another direction … He asks the disciples to seat the people in communities of fifty persons. He raises his eyes to heaven, recites the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples to distribute.”
“It is a moment of profound communion. The crowd, whose thirst has been quenched by the word of the Lord, is now nourished by his bread of life. … This evening, we too are gathered around the Lord’s table … It is in listening to his Word, in nourishing ourselves with his Body and his Blood, that He makes us transforms us from a multitude into a community, from anonymity to communion. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, which brings us out from our selfishness to live together our journey in his footsteps, our faith in him. We all ought, therefore, to ask ourselves before the Lord: How do I live the Eucharist? Do I live it anonymously or as a moment of true communion with the Lord and also with the many brothers and sisters who share this same table?”
The multiplication of the loaves [is born of] Jesus’ invitation to his disciples: ‘Feed them yourselves’, ‘give’, share. What do the disciples share? What little they have: five loaves and two fishes. But it is precisely those loaves and fishes that, in God’s hands, feed the whole crowd. And it is precisely the disciples, bewildered by the inability of their means, by the poverty of what they have at their disposal, who invite the people to sit down and— trusting Jesus’ word of—distribute the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. This tells us that in the Church, but also in society, a keyword that we need not fear is ‘solidarity’, that is, knowing how to place what we have at God’s disposal, our humble abilities, because only in sharing them, in giving them, that our lives will be fruitful, will bear fruit. Solidarity: a word upon which the spirit of the world looks unkindly!”
“Tonight, once again, the Lord gives us the bread which is his body. He makes a gift of himself. We also experiencing “God’s solidarity” with humanity, … a solidarity that never ceases to amaze us. God draws near to us. In the sacrifice of the Cross He lowers himself, entering into the darkness of death in order to give us his life, which conquers evil, selfishness, and death. This evening too, Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist. He shares our journey, or rather, He becomes food, real food that sustains our lives even at the times when the going is rough, when obstacles slow our steps. In the Eucharist, the Lord makes us follow his path, the path of service, sharing, and giving—and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is love, descends into our poverty to transform it.”
“Discipleship, communion, and sharing. Let us pray that our participation in the Eucharist may always inspire us: to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion, to share what we are with Him and with our neighbor. Then our lives will be truly fruitful.”