Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Participating in the Eucharist " we live in an extraordinary way the prayer that Jesus has made and continually makes for each one of us so that evil, which we all encounter in life, does not act in us or win", "so that our life is not lost, despite our weakness and unfaithfulness. " Continuing his reflections on Christ’s prayer, Benedict XVI today spoke to eight thousand people who attended the general audience at the Vatican, about the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.
The General Audience was marked by the festive presence of some circus acrobats who performed with for the Pope
In his speech, he described the Last Supper as a "especially impressive" and "emotional” moment, where Jesus bids farewell to his friends." Mark says that from the start of the journey to Jerusalem "he began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many things," "be killed and after three days rise again."
At that time, the life of the people of Israel "was marked by the approach of Easter, that is by the memory of the liberation of the people." The Last Supper is inserted into this context but in a totally new context: "Jesus looks towards his passion, death and resurrection, being fully aware of it. He wants to live this supper with his disciples, with a totally different character from other special feasts; it is his banquet, to which he brings something totally new: himself. In this way, Jesus celebrated the Passover, anticipating his cross and his resurrection. "
The "core" of this dinner "are the gestures of the breaking of bread, distributing it among his disciples and the sharing of the cup of wine with the words that accompany them, and in the context of prayer into which they are inserted: it is the institution of the Eucharist ".
In the Gospel stories, said the Pope, Paul and Luke speak of Eucharist / thanksgiving: 'He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them', Mark and Matthew, however, emphasize the aspect of eulogy / blessing 'he took bread and said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. '"
The two different Greek words indicate the two intrinsic and complementary directions of this prayer. There is "the thanks and praise" that rises to God for the gift received: in the Last Supper this is the bread and wine. "This prayer of praise and thanksgiving, which rises to God, returns as a blessing, the gift that descends from God and enriches it. Giving thanks, praising God becomes thus becomes a blessing, and the offering given to God Almighty blesses man in return. The words of institution are placed in the context of prayer; in them praise and the blessing becomes a blessing and transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus
Before the words "are the gestures: that of the breaking of the bread and offering of the wine. He who breaks the bread and passed the cup is above all the head of the household, who welcomes his family to his table, but these gestures are also those of hospitality, welcoming to the friendly communion of the foreigner, who is not part of the house. These same gestures, in the meal in which Jesus took leave of his friends, take on a whole new depth: He gives a visible sign of welcome to the table in which God gifts himself. Jesus in the bread and wine offers and communicates Himself. "
Jesus knows that his life is about to be taken away through the torment of the cross. "With the gift of bread and wine offered at the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated his death and resurrection realizing what he had said in the speech of the Good Shepherd:" I give my life to take it up again. No one takes it from me: I give it myself. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again. This is the command I received from my Father. " He offers his life in advance that will be taken from him and thus transforms his violent death into a free act of giving of oneself to others and for others. The violence becomes an active, free and redemptive sacrifice. "
Looking at the actions and words of Jesus, "we clearly see that the constant and intimate relationship with the Father is the place where he realises the gesture of leaving his own, and each of us, the sacrament of love."
Luke offers another element, that "allows us to see the depth of the moving prayer of Jesus for his friends that night, his attention to each. Starting from the prayer of thanksgiving and blessing, Jesus comes to the gift of the Eucharist, the gift of Himself, and, while as he is gifting it the decisive, sacramental reality he turns to Peter, "and says:" Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And you, once converted, will strengthen your brothers. " The prayer of Jesus, when the his disciples are put to the test, strengthens their weakness, their efforts to understand the way of God through the paschal mystery of death and resurrection, anticipated in the offering of bread and wine . The Eucharist is food for the pilgrims that becomes strength for those who are tired, exhausted and disoriented. And this prayer is especially for Peter, so that, once converted, he confirmed the brethren in the faith. The Evangelist Luke recalls that it was Jesus' gaze that sought the face of Peter when after he had denied his master three times, to give him the strength to continue his journey behind Him. "
Participating in the Eucharist, the Pope concluded, "we live in an extraordinary way the prayer that Jesus has made and continually makes for each one of us so that evil, which we all encounter in life, does not act in us or vanquish the transforming power of the death and Resurrection of Christ. " We ask the Lord that "our participation in his Eucharist, which is essential for Christian life, may always be the highest point of all our prayers. We ask that, in deep communion with his own offering to the Father, we too can transform our crosses into free and responsible sacrifice, of love for God and our brethren. "