At the Mass In Cena Domini, Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace, Rome (April 5, 2007)

In the Mass in cena Domini, in the Prelatic Church of Our Lady of Peace

1. Nos autem gloriari oportet in cruce Domini nostri Iesu Christi.

The Mass in Cena Domini opens with these words, marking the beginning of the Paschal Triduum: three days of great solemnity in which we celebrate the central mysteries of our Redemption. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds, move our hearts and strengthen our wills so that during these days—and always—we may follow our Savior as closely as possible. Let us glory in the Cross, the emblem of the Christian, upon which our Lord won for us salvation, life and resurrection.

What were the sentiments of Jesus Christ as the Passion approached? Saint Luke and Saint John, each in their own way, describe them with precision. Saint Luke recalls our Lord’s words to the Apostles at the Last Supper: “With what longing have I longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). And Saint John gives us the explanation for this ardent desire: “Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to leave this world for the Father, having loved his own in the world, loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1).

Let us meditate upon our Lord’s words on that memorable night. Taking bread and wine in his hands, he said to the Apostles: “This is my body, which is given up for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22: 19-20). From that moment on, each time the Holy Mass is celebrated, the paschal mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection becomes truly present on our altars.

2. The Servant of God John Paul II pointed out in his final encyclical that the Sacrifice of the Cross “is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there.”[1] This marvelous and moving supernatural reality could only be brought about by the Omnipotence and Love of God. The Mass is the means that our Lord left us so that we could personally take part in the sacrifice of Golgotha as if we had been present there. Let us pause to consider for a few moments these words of John Paul II.

3. A great variety of people were present on Calvary. And their attitudes were also quite varied. Only the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the cross, fully shared in her Son’s sacrifice and united herself intimately to him, filled with faith, hope and love. Saint John and the holy women, who accompanied her, were there motivated by love and gratitude. The chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees, who had organized our Lord’s death, were motivated by hatred and envy. The Roman soldiers, charged with carrying out the sentence, were there to fulfill their duty. Others, finally, were motivated simply by curiosity.

My dear brothers. With which of these people do we identify ourselves when we attend Holy Mass, which is the sacramental representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary? You will tell me, and I tell myself, that we do not want to be, in any way, hate-filled men, nor passive spectators; that our deepest desire is to act as did our Lady. But we should ask ourselves: is this desire expressed in deeds, does it become a reality in my life?

Meditating on Jesus’ boundless love, who gives himself to us in the Eucharist—in Holy Mass and in the Tabernacle—that cry of St. Josemaría in contemplating one of the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary should break forth from our heart: “Never again, Jesus, Never again.”[2]

Let us also tell him: Lord, we don’t want to leave you alone on the Cross. From now on, with your grace, I will strive to draw from the Holy Mass the immense supernatural riches that it contains.

But good desires are not enough. We need to make specific resolutions. And one very important one is to prepare ourselves well, each time we get ready to take part in the Holy Sacrifice.

The priesthood is intimately united to the Mass. Priests are for the Eucharist: to consecrate it and distribute it to the faithful, preparing them first, through preaching and the sacrament of Penance, to receive our Lord with the best possible dispositions. Today is also the day of the institution of the ministerial priesthood. What a good moment to beseech God that the Church may never lack good shepherds—holy, learned, self-sacrificing, and abundant! Let us pray for this intention with faith and trust. And let us also pray for the Pope.

4. In his recent apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Benedict XVI stressed: “In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a ‘thing,’ but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father.”[3]

Seeing this outpouring of divine love, our only reaction can be that “love is repaid with love.” How can we correspond to our Lord’s self-giving for each one of us?

In the first place, by giving ourselves, each in the way that God indicates. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit suggests to any of you the possibility of dedicating yourself totally to the service of God and souls, be generous, without bargaining or being half-hearted. The world needs many people who are apostles of apostles, and God always gives them the graces needed to correspond, and he fills their heart and life with joy.

The second consequence is expressed thus by the Pope: “The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it demands to be shared with all. What the world needs is God’s love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him.”[4] Apostolate, my children, apostolate! That is how we will correspond to Christ’s self-giving.

With St. Josemaría, I remind you that the Christian path “can be summed up in one word: love. If we are to love, we must have a big heart and share the concerns of those around us. We must be able to forgive and understand; we must sacrifice ourselves, with Jesus Christ, for all souls. If we love with Christ’s heart, we shall learn to serve others and we shall defend the truth clearly, lovingly. If we are to love in this way, we need to root out of our individual lives everything which is an obstacle to Christ’s life in us: attachment to our own comfort, the temptation to selfishness, the tendency to be the center of everything. Only by reproducing in ourselves the word of Christ can we transmit it to others. Only by experiencing the death of the grain of wheat can we work in the heart of the world, transforming it from within, making it fruitful.”[5]

Let us place in our Lady’s hands the fruit of this Easter Triduum. Mary, fully united to her Son’s life and death, will ensure that it is abundant and filled with fragrance: the fragrance of a life dedicated entirely to the service of the Church and all souls. Amen.

[1] John Paul II, Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 11.

[2] Holy Rosary, The third sorrowful mystery.

[3] Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 7.

[4] Ibid., no. 84.

[5] St. Josemaría, Christ Is Passing By, no. 158.

Romana, n. 44, January-June 2007, p. 113-115.

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