VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — The Eucharist is the medicine which can heal our individualist society, Pope Benedict XVI said in his midday Angelus address on Corpus Christi Sunday.
“In an increasingly individualistic culture in which Western societies are immersed, and which is tending to spread throughout the world, the Eucharist is a kind of ‘antidote’ which operates in the minds and hearts of believers and is continually sowing in them the logic of communion, of service, of sharing: in other words, the logic of the Gospel,” said Pope Benedict to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on June 26.
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 by priests at every Mass since. Hence, the name of the feast: “Corpus Christi” Sunday or “Body of Christ” Sunday.
“From the Eucharist,” observed the Pope, “the risen Christ is truly present among his disciples and working with the power of the Holy Spirit. And in the following generations through the centuries, the Church, despite the limitations and human errors, has continued to be a force for communion throughout the world.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Eucharist as the “source and summit” of Christian life. As the Pope bluntly put it, “without the Eucharist, the Church simply does not exist.”
The Pope noted this belief in the centrality of the Eucharist has manifested itself throughout the history of the Church, beginning with the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem who shared all possessions in common.
“From what came all this? From the Eucharist that is the risen Christ, truly present among his disciples and working with the power of the Holy Spirit.”
He then drew upon the example of the fourth-century Abitene martyrs from North Africa who chose to die rather than deprive themselves of Sunday Mass in the face of Roman persecution. They proclaimed: “Sine Dominico non possumus” (without the Sunday Eucharist, we cannot live).
Pope Benedict concluded by urging all pilgrims to turn to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was described by Pope John Paul II as the “Woman of the Eucharist.”
“At her school, our lives become fully ‘Eucharistic,’ open to God and others, capable of transforming evil into good with the power of love, striving to promote unity, fellowship, brotherhood.”
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and several hundred faithful from his archdiocese are nine time zones away from home this week to celebrate his reception of the pallium and the feast of Corpus Christi.
On the first day of a five-day pilgrimage, around 100 people from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles joined Archbishop Gomez for Mass in Rome’s beautiful St. Ignatius of Loyola Church.
“On our pilgrimage,” he told those gathered, “we ask for the grace to have a strong faith, to really live the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, to find a way to receive Jesus in holy Communion as often as we can, and to find the time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.”
“I really believe that the allure of our Church in our country will be based on our devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist,” he said during the homily.
The archbishop noted Mother Teresa’s conviction that prayer before the Blessed Sacrament improves one’s spiritual life. The greatest moments at World Youth Days, he added, are the times set aside for Eucharistic adoration.
Gomez concelebrated the Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi with his predecessor Cardinal Roger Mahony and a dozen other priests.
More than 150 other pilgrims will join them in the next few days as the archbishop prepares to receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The pallium is a white woolen liturgical vestment emblazoned with six black crosses. It symbolizes an archbishop’s pastoral authority and his unity with the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope.
More than 40 other new metropolitan archbishops in the world will receive a pallium this week at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Archbishop Gomez asked for prayers for the upcoming ceremony.
Among the pilgrim group representing Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese in the U.S., were Art and Barbara Najera who raised their five children in Santa Barbara.
The couple, along with their son Father Art Najera, are showing support for the archbishop this week.
Barbara told CNA that she was “thrilled” for Archbishop Gomez and enthused to be “home” in Rome.
“This is the home of our Church. And for my son to be able to come, it’s a real thrill to be able to be here and see his boss, basically.”
“We’re here also to honor the whole occasion,” said her husband Art. “Our new bishop, Archbishop Jose Gomez, he needs our prayers because he has a huge job being the archbishop of Los Angeles.
“He has a lot of work to do there. And we just pray that God will give him all of the strength and health to persevere and get the job done.”
Wednesday’s papal Mass and imposition of the pallium will be broadcast in the U.S. by EWTN.