A Corpus Christi procession should honour Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist, but should also be a pledge to share bread and faith with the people of the cities and towns where the processions take place, Pope Francis said.
Just as the “breaking of the bread” became the icon of the early Christian community, giving of oneself in order to nourish others spiritually and physically should be a sign of Christians today, the pope said on 26th May, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
On a warm spring evening, the pope’s celebration began with Mass outside Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran and was to be followed by a traditional Corpus Christi procession from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one mile away. Hundreds of members of parish and diocesan confraternities and sodalities — dressed in blue, brown, black or white capes and robes — joined the pope for Mass and would make the nighttime walk to St. Mary Major for Eucharistic benediction with him.
“May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command,” he said in his homily. The procession should be “an action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.”
In every celebration of the Eucharist, the pope said, the people place simple bread and wine into “poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit” and Jesus “gives us his body and his blood.”
The people’s gifts are an important part of the process, just as they were when Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish, Pope Francis said.
“Indeed,” he said, “it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish.
“Jesus wanted it this way,” he said. Rather than letting the disciples send the people away to find food, Jesus wanted the disciples to “put at his disposal what little they had.
“And there is another gesture: The pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people,” Pope Francis said.
The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish, he said, “signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood. And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.”
Later in the Mass, a couple with four children and a grandmother with her three grandchildren brought the gifts of bread and wine to the pope for consecration.
Pope Francis urged the crowd gathered on the lawn outside the basilica to consider all the holy men and women throughout history who have given their lives, “‘broken’ themselves,” in order to nourish others.
“How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well,” he said. “How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalised and those discriminated!”
The source of strength for such given, he said, is found in “the Eucharist, in the power of the risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: ‘Do this in remembrance of me.'”
Picture: Pope Francis raises the Eucharist as he celebrates Mass marking the feast of Corpus Christi outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on 26th May. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).