ROME (EWTN News/CNA) — The Eucharist assimilates man into the divine life of Jesus, enabling him to more closely follow in Christ’s footsteps and become a gift to others, Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily for the feast of Corpus Christi, June 23 (Sunday, June 26, in the United States).
“This is the transformation that the world has most need of, because it redeems from within, opening it up to the size of the the Kingdom of heaven,” Pope Benedict declared.
He was celebrating Mass in his cathedral, the basilica of St. John Lateran, before leading the traditional Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Rome to the basilica of St. Mary Major.
The feast of Corpus Christi celebrates Jesus’ gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist.
“It all starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper, on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God, and, in doing so, with the power of his love, has transformed the meaning of death,” the Pope said in his homily.
Catholics believe that the bread and wine offered by Christ at the Last Supper literally became his body and blood and that this same miracle is repeated every time Mass is celebrated.
For the sake of love, said the Pope, Christ “takes all the passion, with its labors and its violence, to death on a cross.”
This sacrificial love is Christ’s template for the Christian life, he said.
“Everything goes through the logic of the patient and humble grain of wheat that is broken to form the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God.”
For this reason, the sacrifice of the Eucharist is given to the world “to give every person the possibility of salvation.”
“For God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament.”
To better explain the effect the Eucharist has on a person, the Pope quoted the 5th-century theologian St. Augustine: “I am the food of the strong; grow and you shall feed on me. But you will not convert me into yourself like bodily food — but you shall be changed into me.”
The Eucharist goes beyond uniting believers to Christ and helps them open up to others, so that “we are no longer divided but one in him,” the Pope said.
“Those who recognize Jesus in the sacred also recognize him in brethren who are suffering, hungry and thirsty, who are a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned,” he explained.
The ceremonies finished with a Corpus Christi procession along Rome’s Via Merulana, which links the basilicas of St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major.
The procession was led Pope Benedict, who was driven atop a canopied float and flanked by candle-bearing acolytes. The Pope knelt in adoration in front of the Eucharist for the whole procession.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims processed behind the Pope, reciting the Rosary and singing Eucharistic hymns as they as walked the mile-long route in the warm Roman night.
The procession concluded outside St. Mary Major, where the Pope led a service of Benediction that finished with a blessing of the pilgrims, now kneeling, with the Eucharist.