Getting Match-fit: Day 14

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POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on
the Mass XIV

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

And today is the first day of Spring: Happy Spring! But what happens in Spring? Plants blossom, trees flower. I will ask you some questions. Can a sick tree or plant fully blossom if it is sick? No! Can a tree, a plant which is not watered by rain or artificially, blossom nicely? No. And can a tree and a plant whose roots have been removed or which have no roots flower? No. Without roots, can they flower? No! And this is a message: Christian life has to be a life that must blossom in works of charity, in doing what is good. But if you have no roots, you cannot blossom, and who is the root? Jesus! If you are not with Jesus, there in the roots, you will not blossom. If you do not water your life with prayer and the sacraments, will you bear Christian flowers? No! Because prayer and the sacraments water the roots and our life blossoms. I hope that your Spring may be bloom beautifully, as blooming as Easter will be; blossoming with good works, virtue and doing good to others. Remember this, this is a very beautiful verse from my country: “What blossoms a tree bears come from what lies underneath it”. Never cut off Jesus’ roots.

And let us now continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The celebration of Mass which we have been reviewing in stages is organized around Communion, that is, in being united to Jesus; the Sacramental Communion: not spiritual communion which you can have in your own home by saying: “Jesus I would like to receive you spiritually”. Not, Sacramental Communion, with the Body and the Blood of Christ. We celebrate the Eucharist to nourish ourselves of Christ who gives himself both in Word and in the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to conform us to him. The Lord himself says this: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him”. (Jn 6:56). In fact, Jesus’ gesture of giving his Body and Blood to his disciples at the Last Supper, still continues today through the ministry of the priests and deacons; ordinary ministers of the distribution of the Bread of life and the Cup of salvation, to the brothers and sisters.

During Mass, after breaking the consecrated Bread, that is the Body of Christ, the priest shows it to the faithful, inviting them to participate in the Eucharistic banquet. We know the words that ring out from the sacred altar: “Happy are those who are called to his Supper. This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Inspired by a passage in the Book of Revelation — “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9): it says “marriage” because Jesus is the Spouse of the Church — this invitation calls us to experience intimate union with Christ, the source of joy and holiness. It is an invitation which brings happiness and at the same time spurs us to an examination of conscience enlightened by faith. If in fact, on the one hand we can see the distance which separates us from the sanctity of Christ, on the other, we believe that his Blood is “shed for the forgiveness of sins”. We were all forgiven at Baptism and we are all forgiven or will be forgiven when we approach the sacrament of Reconciliation. And do not forget: Jesus always forgives. Jesus never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness. In fact it is in considering the salvific value of this Blood that Saint Ambrose exclaimed: “If I sin continually, I must always have a remedy” (De Sacramentis, iv, 6, 28: pl 16, 446a). In this faith, we too turn our gaze to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and we invoke him: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. We say this at every Mass.

Although we are the ones who stand in procession to receive Communion; we approach the altar in a procession to receive communion, in reality it is Christ who comes towards us to assimilate us in him. There is an encounter with Jesus! To nourish oneself of the Eucharist means to allow oneself to be changed by what we receive. Saint Augustine helps us understand this when he talks about the light he received when he heard Christ say to him: “I am the food of strong men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you convert me, like the food of your flesh, into you, but you shall be converted into me” (Confessions VII, 10, 16: pl 32, 742). Each time we receive Communion, we resemble Jesus more; we transform ourselves more fully into Jesus. As the Bread and the Wine are converted into the Body and Blood of the Lord, so too those who receive it with faith are transformed into a living Eucharist. You reply “Amen” to the priest who distributes the Eucharist saying “the Body of Christ”; that is, you recognize the grace and the commitment involved in becoming the Body of Christ. Because when you receive the Eucharist, you become the Body of Christ. This is beautiful; it is very beautiful. As it unites us to Christ, tearing us away from our selfishness, Communion opens us and unites us to all those who are a single thing in him. This is the wonder of Communion: we become what we receive!

The Church strongly desires that the faithful also receive the Lord’s Body with Hosts consecrated at the same Mass; and the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more fully expressed when Holy Communion is received under the two Species, even though we know that Catholic doctrine teaches us that Christ, whole and entire, is received even under only one Species, (cf. GIRM, 85:281-282). According to ecclesiastical norms, the faithful normally approach the Eucharist in a processional manner, as we have said, and receive Communion standing with devotion, or on their knees as established by the Episcopal Conference, receiving the Sacrament either on the tongue or in the hand, if allowed, as preferred (cf. GIRM 160-161). After Communion, silence, silent prayer helps us treasure in our hearts the gift which we have received. To slightly extend that moment of silence, speaking to Jesus in our hearts, helps us a great deal, as does singing a psalm or a hymn of praise (cf. GIRM 88) that can help us be with the Lord.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist ends with the prayer after Communion. On behalf of everyone, with that prayer the priest turns to God to thank him for having shared the banquet and to ask that what was received may transform our lives. The Eucharist makes us strong in order to produce fruit in good works to live as Christians. Today’s prayer is significant: we ask the Lord that “the participation in his Sacrament may be for us a heavenly medicine, heal us from sin and reaffirm us in his friendship” (cf. Roman Missal, Wednesday, Fifth week of Lent). Let us approach the Eucharist: receiving Jesus who transforms us into him makes us stronger. The Lord is so good and so great!


In more ordinary times there is a possibility that we can take the Eucharist for granted.

Probably not in these days when most of the Church has experienced an extended Eucharistic fast, and only now is able to return to more regular celebration and participation.

We know that Christ is for us, we know he is remedy for our sickness and sin. Let us know and give voice to our thankfulness for the gift, find fresh place in our living to treasure the gift.


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

Getting Match-fit: Day 13

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POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on
the Mass XIII

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

Let us continue with the Catecheses on the Holy Mass. At the Last Supper, after Jesus took the bread and the cup of wine, and gave thanks to God, we know that “he broke the bread”. In the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass, this action corresponds to the Fraction of Bread, preceded by the prayer that the Lord taught us, that is, by the “Our Father”.

Thus begins the Communion Rite, continuing the praise and petition of the Eucharistic Prayer with the community’s recitation of the “Our Father”. This is not one of many Christian prayers, but the prayer of the children of God: it is the great prayer that Jesus taught us. Indeed, consigned to us on the day of our Baptism, the “Our Father” makes resonate within us those same sentiments that Christ Jesus bore within. When we pray the “Our Father”, we pray as Jesus prayed. It is the prayer that Jesus prayed, and he taught it to us; when the disciples said to him: “Master, teach us to pray as you pray”. And this is how Jesus prayed. It is so beautiful to pray like Jesus! Formed by his divine teaching, we dare to turn to God calling him “Father”, because we are reborn as his children through water and the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 1:5). No one, truly, could call him “Abbà” — “Father” — in a familiar way without having been created by God, without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul teaches (cf. Rom 8:15). We must consider: no one can call him “Father” without the inspiration of the Spirit. How often there are people who say “Our Father” but do not know what they are saying. Because yes, he is the Father, but when you say “Father”, do you feel that he is Father, your Father, the Father of mankind, the Father of Jesus Christ? Do you have a relationship with this Father? When we pray the “Our Father”, we connect with the Father who loves us, but it is the Spirit who gives us this connection, this feeling of being God’s children.

What better prayer than the one taught by Jesus could prepare us for sacramental Communion with him? Apart from in the Mass, the “Our Father” is prayed in the morning and at night, in the Praises and in Vespers; in this way, the filial attitude toward God and that of fraternity with our neighbour help give Christian form to our days.

In the Lord’s Prayer — in the “Our Father” — we ask for our “daily bread”, in which we see a particular reference to the Eucharistic Bread, which we need in order to live as children of God. We also implore “forgiveness of our trespasses”. And in order to be worthy to receive God’s forgiveness we commit to forgiving those who have offended us. And this is not easy. Forgiving the people who have offended us is not easy; it is a grace that we must ask for: “Lord, teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me”. It is a grace. Through our own efforts we are unable: to forgive is a grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus, as we open our heart to God, the “Our Father” also prepares us for fraternal love. Lastly, we again ask God to “deliver us from evil” which separates us from him and divides us from our brothers and sisters. Let us clearly understand that these requests are quite appropriate to prepare ourselves for Holy Communion (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 81).

Indeed, what we ask in the “Our Father” is extended by the prayer of the priest who, in the name of all, implores: “Deliver us Lord from every evil, and grant us peace in our day”. He then receives a sort of seal in the Rite of Peace: what he first asks of Christ is that the gift of His peace (cf. Jn 14:27) — thus different from worldly peace — may help the Church to grow in unity and in peace, according to His will; then, with the concrete gesture exchanged among us, we express “ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament” (cf. GIRM, 82). In the Roman Rite the exchange of the sign of peace, placed from antiquity before Communion, is ordered to Eucharistic Communion. According to Saint Paul’s admonition, it is impossible to communicate with the one Bread that renders us one Body in Christ, without recognizing that we are reconciled by fraternal love (cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:29). Christ’s peace cannot take root in a heart incapable of experiencing fraternity and of restoring it after it has been wounded. Peace is granted by the Lord: he grants us the grace to forgive those who have offended us.

The gesture of peace is followed by the Fraction of Bread (cf. girm, 83; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1329). Performed by Jesus during the Last Supper, the breaking of the Bread is the revelatory gesture that allowed the disciples to recognize him after his Resurrection. We remember the disciples of Emmaus who, in speaking of their encounter with the Risen One, recount “how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (cf. Lk 24:30-31, 35).

The breaking of the Eucharistic Bread is accompanied by the invocation of the “Lamb of God”, the figure which John the Baptist indicated in Jesus “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). The biblical image of the lamb speaks of redemption (cf. Ex 12:1-14; Is 53:7; 1 Pet 1:19; Rev 7:14). In the Eucharistic Bread, broken for the life of the world, the prayerful assembly recognizes the true Lamb of God, namely, Christ the Redeemer, and implores him: “Have mercy on us … grant us peace”.

“Have mercy on us”, “grant us peace” are invocations that, from the “Our Father” prayer to the Fraction of Bread, help us to prepare our soul to participate in the Eucharistic banquet, the source of communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

Let us not forget the great prayer: the one that Jesus taught us, and which is the prayer with which he prayed to the Father. This prayer prepares us for Communion.


After our remembering of Jesus’s faithfulness, and offering again to the Father the Sacrament of his Sacrifice we pause, take stock and then begin our preparation to receive Holy Communion.

The major part of that preparation is our praying of Jesus’ prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. We pray now with him that we might be as him in our relationship with the Father – and in our relationship with our neighbours, and the world.


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

This Sunday’s Gospel…

In Jewish tradition there is a tradition of ‘taking the yoke’, of committing oneself to the study of Torah. It is a commitment that allows for those concerned to be relieved from governmental duties and worldly cares.

Debate about this relief is a live issue in the modern State of Israel, where some religious Jews are dispensed from, for example, military service because of their commitment to Torah study.

Learning from Jesus is promised to bring rest not by keeping us from service, but precisely by joining him in service of God and neighbour, not so much in scripture study but in practical and world-changing works of love

Matthew 11:25-30

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Acknowledgements
~ Scripture translation: Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2015, Allen Morris. Museum of Liverpool.

Getting Match-fit: Day 12

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POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on
the Mass XII

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

We are continuing the catecheses on the Holy Mass, and with this catechesis we shall focus on the Eucharistic Prayer. The rite of the presentation of the bread and wine having concluded, the Eucharistic Prayer begins, which qualifies the celebration of the Mass and constitutes its central moment, ordered to holy Communion.

It corresponds to what Jesus himself did, at the table with the Apostles at the Last Supper, when “he gave thanks” over the bread and then over the cup of wine (cf. Mt 26:27; Mk 14:23; Lk 22:17, 19; 1 Cor 11:24): his thanksgiving lives again each time we celebrate the Eucharist, joining us to his sacrifice of salvation.

And in this solemn Prayer — the Eucharistic Prayer is solemn — the Church expresses what she achieves when she celebrates the Eucharist and the reason why it is celebrated; rather, she makes communion with Christ truly present in the consecrated Bread and Wine. After inviting the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord and to give him thanks, the priest pronounces the Prayer aloud, in the name of all those present, addressing the Father through Jesus in the Holy Spirit. “The meaning of the Prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful should join with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 78). And in order to join oneself one needs to understand. For this reason, the Church has wished to celebrate Mass in the language that the people understand, so that each one may join him or herself in this praise and in this great prayer with the priest. In truth, “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367).

In the Missal there are different formulations of the Eucharistic Prayer, all constituted of characteristic elements, which I would like to recall now (cf. GIRM, 79; CCC, 1352-1354). They are all very beautiful. First and foremost there is the Preface, which is the act of thanksgiving for the gifts of God, in particular for sending his Son as Saviour. The Preface concludes with the acclamation of the “Holy”, normally sung. It is beautiful to sing the “Holy”: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord”. It is beautiful to sing it. The whole assembly joins its voice to that of the Angels and Saints to praise and glorify God.

There is then the invocation of the Spirit, that by his power he consecrate the bread and wine. We invoke the Spirit, that he come and that Jesus may be in the bread and wine. The action of the Holy Spirit and the efficacy of the very words of Christ uttered by the priest make truly present, under the form of bread and wine, his Body and his Blood, his sacrifice offered on the Cross once and for all (cf. ccc, 1375). Jesus was most clear about this. We have heard how Saint Paul, in the beginning, repeated Jesus’ words: “This is my body; this is my blood”. “This is my blood; this is my body”. It was Jesus himself who said this. We should not have odd thoughts: “But, how come something that…”. It is the Body of Jesus; it ends there! Faith: faith comes to our aid; by an act of faith we believe that it is the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is the “mystery of faith”, as we say after the consecration. The priest says: “Mystery of faith”, and we respond with an acclamation. Commemorating the Lord’s death and Resurrection, in expectation of his glorious return, the Church offers the Father the sacrifice which reconciles heaven and earth: she offers the paschal sacrifice of Christ, offering herself with him and asking, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to become “one body, one spirit in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer iii; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48; ogmr, 79f). The Church wishes to be joined to Christ and become one body and one spirit with the Lord. This is the grace and the fruit of sacramental Communion: we are nourished of the Body of Christ to become, we who eat of it, his Body living today in the world.

This is the mystery of communion; the Church is united to Christ’s offering and his intercession, and in this light, “in the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him, she offers herself and intercedes for all men” (ccc, 1368). The Church which praises, which prays. It is beautiful to think that the Church praises, she prays. There is a passage in the Book of The Acts of the Apostles; when Peter was in prison, it says the Christian community: “prayed earnestly for him”. The Church that prays, the prayerful Church. And when we go to Mass it is to do this: to be a prayerful Church.

The Eucharistic Prayer asks God to welcome all his children in the perfection of love, in union with the Pope and the Bishop, mentioned by name, a sign that we celebrate in communion with the universal Church and with the particular Church. The prayer, like the offering, is presented to God for all the members of the Church, living and departed, in expectation of the blessed hope of sharing the eternal inheritance of heaven, with the Virgin Mary (cf. ccc 1369-1371). No one and nothing is forgotten in the Eucharistic Prayer, but every thing is attributed to God, as is recalled by the doxology which concludes it. No one is forgotten. And if I have someone, relatives, friends, who are in need or have departed from this world to the other, I can name them at that time, interiorly and silently, or write the name so it may be said aloud. “Father, how much do I have to pay to have my name said there?” — “Nothing”. Is this understood? Nothing! One does not pay for Mass. Mass is Christ’s sacrifice, which is freely given. Redemption is freely given. If you want to make an offering, do so, but it is not paid for. It is important to understand this.

This codified formulation of prayer, perhaps we may feel it to be somewhat distant — it is true, it is an ancient formula — but, if we truly understand the significance, then we will certainly participate better. Indeed it expresses all that we fulfil in the Eucharistic celebration; moreover, it teaches us to cultivate three attitudes that should never be lacking in Jesus’ disciples. The three attitudes: first, learn “to give thanks, always and everywhere”, and not only on certain occasions, when all is going well; second, to make of our life a gift of love, freely given; third, to build concrete communion, in the Church and with everyone. Thus, this central Prayer of the Mass teaches us, little by little, to make of our whole life a “Eucharist”, that is, an act of thanksgiving.


Pope Francis highlights Trinitarian dimensions of the prayer of the Eucharist – Christ’s offering, to the Father, enabled now as then by the work of the Spirit.

These dimensions are not to be neglected, even though we have a particular focus on Christ who calls us to be at one with him in our faithfulness and worship of the Father.

We unite with Christ to become Eucharist.


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

Getting Match-fit: Day 11

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POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on
the Mass XI

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The Liturgy of the Word — on which I focused in the last catecheses — is followed by the main part of the Mass which is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In it, through its holy signs, the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross is made continually present by the Church (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47). The Cross was the first Christian altar, and when we approach the altar to celebrate Mass, our memory turns to the altar of the Cross where the first sacrifice was made.

The priest, who represents Christ in the Mass, does what Christ himself did and entrusted to the disciples at the Last Supper: he took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat … drink: this is my body…. This is the cup of my blood. Do this in memory of me”.

Obedient to Jesus’ commands, the Church organized the Eucharistic Liturgy into moments which correspond to the words and the actions performed by him on the eve of his Passion. Thus in the preparation of the gifts, the bread and the wine — that is, the elements which Christ took into his hands — are brought to the altar. In the Eucharistic Prayer, we give thanks to God for the whole work of redemption, and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is followed by the breaking of the Bread and Communion, through which we relive the experience of the Apostles who received the Eucharistic gifts from Christ’s own hands (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 72).

Jesus’ first gesture: “he took the bread and the cup of wine”, thus corresponds to the preparation of the gifts. This is the first part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is praiseworthy that the faithful should present the bread and wine to the priest because they symbolize the spiritual offering of the Church assembled for the Eucharist. It is good that the faithful themselves bring the bread and wine to the altar. “Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance” (ibid., 73). And in this regard, it is significant that in ordaining a priest, when the Bishop gives him the bread and wine he says: “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered for the Eucharistic sacrifice” (cf. Pontificale Romanum — Ordination of Bishops, Priests and Deacons). The People of God who bring the offering, the bread and wine, the great offering for the Mass!

Therefore, in the symbols of the bread and the wine, the faithful place their offering in the hands of the priest who places them on the altar, or the Lord’s Table, “which is the centre of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist” (girm, 73). Thus, the centre of the Mass is the altar and the altar is Christ. We must always look to the altar which is the centre of the Mass. In the “fruit of the earth and the work of man” the commitment of the faithful to obey the Divine Word is offered as a “sacrifice acceptable to the Almighty Father”, “for the good of all his holy Church”. Thus, “the lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368).

Certainly our offering is small but Christ needs this small amount. The Lord asks little of us and he gives us so much. He asks for little. He asks us for good will in our ordinary lives; he asks us for an open heart; he asks us to seek to be better in order to welcome the One who offers himself to us in the Eucharist; he asks us for these symbolic offerings which will become his Body and Blood. An image of this offering of prayer is represented by incense which, consumed by fire, releases a perfumed smoke that rises upwards: incensing the offerings, as is done on feast days, incensing the Cross and the altar, the priest and the priestly people visibly manifest their bond of offering which unites these realities to Christ’s Sacrifice (cf. girm, 75). And do not forget: there is the altar which is Christ, but always in reference to the first altar which is the Cross and, upon the altar which is Christ, we bring our small gifts, the bread and the wine which will become so much: Jesus himself who gives himself to us.

And all of this is also expressed in the prayer over the offerings. In it, the priest asks God to accept the gifts offered by the Church, invoking the fruit of the extraordinary exchange between our poverty and his richness. In the bread and wine, we present to him the offering of our life so that it may be transformed by the Holy Spirit in the Sacrifice of Christ and become with him a single spiritual offering pleasing to the Father. While the offerings conclude the preparation of the gifts, they prepare us for the Eucharistic Prayer (cf. ibid., 77). May the spirituality of self-giving that this moment of Mass teaches us illuminate our days, our relationships with others, the things we do, the suffering we encounter, helping us to build up the earthly city in the light of the Gospel.


Francis makes much in these catecheses of the altar that is symbol of Christ’s presence, and its central role in the action of the Church that is the Mass. The altar that we use in our Liturgy must always be considered in relation to the first Christian altar which is the Cross.

At the Cross Jesus made his self-Offering. To the altar of the church we bring our offerings which are symbol of our lives, which we are called to offer to the Lord.

There is a great difference between signs and symbols. Signs point to something that they are not; symbols make present, participate in, the being of things which they do not at first appear to be. The host at Mass – to take an extreme example of a symbol that is also Sacrament – is to our senses indistinguishable from bread; but we know it has been changed in its substance from bread to Jesus Christ.

I wonder, do we ‘read’ our offertory gifts of bread and wine, and our financial offerings too, as being real symbols of us and our self-offering to the Lord and neighbour?

If we don’t – if they don’t bear this weight of meaning to us – how do we recover the symbol? How might we better engage with it – at Mass, before Mass, after Mass?


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

This Sunday’s Second reading

This Sunday we return to the sequence of Sundays in Ordinary Time, with a pattern of semi-continuous readings as a second readings (at present from Romans) and the Gospel readings (this year from Matthew)

We come to the Letter to the Romans pretty much half way through Paul’s Letter. If you have time it might be an idea to find time to read the Letter from the beginning so as to help to a stronger sense of Paul’s argument and concerns in the Letter as a whole.

However the passage set for this Sunday can stand alone. Paul speaks to both Jews and Gentiles equal before the Lord, and each called to new life in Christ, through the in-dwelling of the Spirit of Christ in the faithful.

Christians may see this as a specific reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit, evidenced in a particular and new way in the Pentecost event, for example.

  • Where do you see yourself as a debtor to the Spirit?
  • What do you owe to the Spirit?
  • From what does the Spirit set you free?

Second reading: Romans 8:9,11-13

nb v10 is not part of the Lectionary reading, and so has been italicised below.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Getting Match-fit: Day 10

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POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on

the Mass X

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Good morning, even if the day is a little unpleasant. But if the soul is joyful it is always a good day. So, good day! Today the Audience is taking place in two places: a small group of sick people is in the Hall, due to the weather, and we are here. But we see them and they see us on the jumbo screen. Let us greet them with a round of applause.

We are continuing with the catechesis on the Mass. To what does listening to the Bible readings, which are elaborated upon in the homily, respond? It responds to a right: the spiritual right of the People of God to receive abundantly from the treasury of the Word of God (cf. General Introduction to the Lectionary, 45). When we go to Mass, each of us has the right to receive in abundance the Word of God read well, said well and then, explained well in the homily. It is a right! And when the Word of God is not read well, not preached with fervour by the deacon, by the priest or by the bishop, then the faithful are deprived of a right. We have the right to hear the Word of God. The Lord speaks for everyone, Pastors and the faithful. He knocks at the heart of those who participate in the Mass, each one in his or her condition of life, age, situation. The Lord comforts, calls, brings forth sprouts of a new and reconciled life. And this is through his Word. His Word knocks at the heart and changes hearts!

Therefore, after the homily, a moment of silence allows the seed received to settle in the soul, so that intentions to heed what the Spirit has suggested to each person may sprout. Silence after the homily. A good moment of silence must be observed there, and each one should ponder what he or she has heard.

After this silence, how does the Mass continue? The personal response of faith is integrated in the Church’s Profession of Faith, expressed in the Creed. We all recite the Creed in the Mass. Recited by the entire assembly, the Symbolum manifests the common response to what is heard together from the Word of God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 185-197). There is an essential nexus between listening and faith. They are linked. Indeed, this — faith — does not arise from human imagination, but, as Saint Paul recalls, “comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Thus, faith is nourished by what is heard and leads to the Sacrament. In this way, reciting the Creed enables the liturgical assembly to “call to mind and confess the great mysteries of the faith … before these mysteries are celebrated in the Eucharist” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 67).

The Symbolum of Faith joins the Eucharist to Baptism, received “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, and recalls that the Sacraments are understood in the light of the faith of the Church.
The response to the Word of God heard with faith is then expressed in the common petition, called the Universal Prayer, because it embraces the needs of the Church and of the world (cf. girm, 69-71; General Introduction to the Lectionary, 30-31).

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wished to restore this prayer after the Gospel and homily, especially on Sundays and feast days, so that, with the participation of the people, “intercession will be made for holy Church, for the civil authorities, for those oppressed by various needs, for all mankind, and for the salvation of the entire world (Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 53; cf. 1 Tim 2:1-2). Therefore, under the guidance of the priest who introduces and concludes, the people, “exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all” (GIRM, 69). And after the individual intentions, proposals by the deacon or a reader, the congregation joins its voice, invoking: “Hear us, Lord”.

Indeed, let us remember what the Lord Jesus told us: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (Jn 15:7). “But we do not believe this, because we have little faith”. But if we had faith — Jesus says — like the mustard seed, we would have received all. “Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you”. And in this moment of universal prayer after the Creed, it is the time to ask the Lord for the most important things in the Mass, the things we need, what we want. “It shall be done for you”; in one way or another, but “it shall be done for you”. “All things are possible to him who believes”, the Lord said. What did that man respond, to whom the Lord had addressed these words — “all things are possible to him who believes”? The man said: “I believe, Lord. Help my little faith”. We too can say: “Lord, I believe. But help my lack of faith”. And we must pray with this spirit of faith: “I believe, Lord; help my lack of faith”. Worldly demands, however, do not ascend toward heaven, just as self-referential requests remain unheard (cf. Jas 4:2-3). The intentions for which the faithful people are invited to pray must give voice to the concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding recourse to conventional and short-sighted formulas. The “universal” prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to turn our gaze to God, who takes care of all his children.


Earlier in his catechesis Francis spoke of the Mass as a symphony.

Here he notes the organic relationship between the different parts of the Mass, how they work together to propel us forward and to focus and feed us for mission. Most fundamentally faith is nourished by our hearing of the word, which leads us forward to teh Sacrament of the EUcharist which feeds us for what we face in our daily living.

The Prayer of the Faithful is notable as hinge between listening and feeding for mission. In it faith acknowledges concrete needs and looks for the Lord’s help.


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris

The Psalm for next Sunday…

The psalm this week, like that set for Peter and Paul is an acrostic psalm, with each line beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. You can find Knox’s translation here.

The Lectionary has selected a few verses for our use, but the full psalm is given below with the Leciontary verses indicated.

The psalm is recited in the three daily services of Judaism. It does not have the same regular prominence in the Church’s Divine Office, or in our Sunday Liturgy.

The psalm as a whole alternates between direct address to God and then speaking about God (to unnamed others). This pattern is retained in the selection of verses for the Lectionary. In a sense this alternation of addressee acheives what the psalmist promises in the first verses.

  • Where and when do you extol and bless God?

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 144(145):1-2,8-11,13b-14

1           Praise. Of David.

            I will extol you, my God and king,
            and bless your name forever and ever.

2           I will bless you day after day,
            and praise your name forever and ever.
3           The Lord is great and highly to be praised;
            his greatness cannot be measured.

4           Age to age shall proclaim your works,
            shall declare your mighty deeds.
5           They will tell of your great glory and splendor,
            and recount your wonderful works.

6           They will speak of your awesome deeds,
            recount your greatness and might.
7           They will recall your abundant goodness,
            and sing of your just deeds with joy.

8           The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
            slow to anger, abounding in mercy.
9           How good is the Lord to all,
            compassionate to all his creatures.

10          All your works shall thank you, O Lord,
            and all your faithful ones bless you.
11          They shall speak of the glory of your reign,
            and declare your mighty deeds,

12          To make known your might to the children of men,
            and the glorious splendor of your reign.
13          Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
            your rule endures for all generations.

            The Lord is faithful in all his words,
            and holy in all his deeds.
14          The Lord supports all who fall,
            and raises up all who are bowed down.

15          The eyes of all look to you,
            and you give them their food in due season.
16          You open your hand and satisfy
            the desire of every living thing.

17          The Lord is just in all his ways,
            and holy in all his deeds.
18          The Lord is close to all who call him,
            who call on him in truth.

19          He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
            he hears their cry and he saves them.
20          The Lord keeps watch over all who love him;
            the wicked he will utterly destroy.

21          Let my mouth speak the praise of the Lord;
            let all flesh bless his holy name
            forever, for ages unending.



The first reading for Sunday

Our first reading this coming Sunday comes from the prophet Zechariah.

The book deals with the restoration of Jerusalem and its Temple following the liberation of captives by Darius. It also looks forward to a further final restoration which may be understood in a spiritual sense, or in the end-times when human kind and creation as a whole is restored to right relationship with the Creator, our Saving God.

The particular passage we hear this week is one familiar to Jews and Christians alike and gives shape to our understanding of the promised Messiah, who will lead the people to the promised newness.

Christians, of course, see this prophesy fulfilled in Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem shortly before his Crucifixion, and remembered by the Church especially at the beginning of our liturgical celebration of Holy Week.

A danger for Christians is to see this as prophesy fulifilled by an historical event, but now done and dusted. It surely encourages us to continue to seek for ourselves a way of wighteousness and humility and peace.

In the Gospel of this Sunday – and this reading is offered in preparation for our hearing of that text – the Lord says

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

His way of being is rest for us. Our way of being is to be rest and reassurance for others…

Zechariah 9:9-10

9  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10  I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Getting Match-fit: Day 9

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POPE FRANCIS:
Catechesis on

the Mass IX

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning

Let us continue with the catecheses on the Holy Mass. We had reached the readings.

The dialogue between God and his people, developed in the Liturgy of the Word of the Mass, culminates in the proclamation of the Gospel. It precedes the chanting of the Alleluia — or, during Lent, another acclamation — with which “the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to it in the Gospel”. As the mysteries of Christ illuminate the entire biblical revelation, likewise, in the Liturgy of the Word, the Gospel constitutes the light for understanding the meaning of the biblical texts which precede it, both of the Old and the New Testaments. Indeed, “Christ himself is the centre and fullness of the whole of Scripture”. Jesus Christ is always at the centre, always.

Therefore the liturgy itself distinguishes the Gospel from the other readings and surrounds it with particular honour and veneration. Indeed, its reading is reserved to the ordained minister, who concludes by kissing the Book; it calls us to stand up to listen and to make the sign of the Cross on our forehead, our mouth and our breast; the candles and incense honour Christ, who, through the Gospel reading, makes his effective Word resonate. From these signs, the assembly recognizes the presence of Christ who gives them the “Good News” which converts and transforms. What occurs is a direct discourse, as attested by the acclamations with which we respond to the proclamation: “Glory to you, O Lord” and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”. We stand up to listen to the Gospel: but it is Christ who is speaking to us, there. And this is why we are attentive, because it is a direct conversation. It is the Lord who is speaking to us.

Thus, in the Mass we do not read the Gospel in order to know how things happened, but rather, we listen to the Gospel in order to realize what Jesus once did and said; and that Word is living, the Word of Jesus that is in the Gospel is alive and touches my heart. Therefore, listening to the Gospel is very important, with an open heart, because it is the living Word. Saint Augustine writes: “The Gospel is the mouth of Christ. He is seated in heaven, but he has not stopped speaking on earth”. If it is true that in the liturgy “Christ is still proclaiming His Gospel”, it follows that, by participating in the Mass, we must give him a response. We listen to the Gospel and we must give a response in our life.

In order to get his message across, Christ also makes use of the words of the priest who, after the Gospel, gives the homily.[6]Strongly recommended by the Second Vatican Council as part of the liturgy itself, the homily is not a trite discourse — nor a catechesis like the one I am giving now —, nor is it a conference nor a lesson. The homily is something else. What is the homily? It is taking up “once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people”, so it may find fulfilment in life. The authentic exegesis of the Gospel is our holy life! The Word of the Lord concludes its journey by becoming flesh in us, being translated into works, as happened in Mary and in the Saints. Remember what I told you last time: the Word of the Lord enters through the ears, goes to the heart and passes to the hands, to good deeds. And the homily also follows the Word of the Lord and also follows this path in order to help us so that the Word of the Lord may go to the hands, by passing through the heart.

I have already addressed the subject of the homily in the Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, where I recalled that the liturgical context “demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist”.

The homilist — the one who preaches, the priest or the deacon or the bishop — must carry out his ministry well, by offering a real service to all those who participate in the Mass, but those who listen to it must also do their part. Firstly by paying proper attention, that is, assuming the right interior disposition, without subjective pretexts, knowing that every preacher has merits and limitations. If at times there is reason for boredom because a homily is long or unfocused or unintelligible, at other times, however, prejudice creates the obstacle. And the homilist must be aware that he is not doing something of his own, but is preaching, giving voice to Jesus; he is preaching the Word of Jesus. And the homily must be prepared well; it must be brief, short! A priest told me that once he had gone to another city where his parents lived, and his father told him: “You know, I am pleased, because my friends and I have found a church where they say Mass without a homily!”. And how often do we see that during the homily some fall asleep, others chat or go outside to smoke a cigarette…. For this reason, please, make the homily brief, but prepare it well. And how do we prepare a homily, dear priests, deacons, bishops? How should it be prepared? With prayer, by studying the Word of God and by making a clear and brief summary; it should not last more than 10 minutes, please.

In conclusion we could say that in the Liturgy of the Word, through the Gospel and the homily, God dialogues with his people, who listen to him with attention and veneration and, at the same time, recognize he is present and acting. Hence, if we listen to the “Good News”, we will be converted and transformed by it, and therefore capable of changing ourselves and the world. Why? Because the Good News, the Word of God enters through the ears, goes to the heart and passes to the hands in order to do good deeds.


Saint Pope John Paul II taught that the sign of the authenticity of our celebration of the Eucharist is how we live the life shared with us there, Christ’s life shared with us.

The Eucharist’s authenticity is not measured by the presence of Christ, or our belief in that real presence, or in the prayers we say, the vestments, and all, but what we do when we are not at Mass.

Pope Francis makes a similar point about the purpose of the Gospel being proclaimed at Mass.

We do not read the Gospel in order to know how things happened, but rather, we listen to the Gospel in order to realize what Jesus once did and said; and that Word is living, the Word of Jesus that is in the Gospel is alive and touches my heart. … If it is true that in the liturgy “Christ is still proclaiming His Gospel”, it follows that, by participating in the Mass, we must give him a response. We listen to the Gospel and we must give a response in our life.

The Word of the Lord concludes its journey by becoming flesh in us, being translated into works, as happened in Mary and in the Saints.

This puts a challenge before us all, and a reminder of how important our response and raises the question about when and to whom we are responsible for our response? Just to the Lord, or to St Peter at heaven’s gate? Or to each other, here and now?


If you would like to contribute to a discussion on the above – and especially what it might have to say to your local situation – it is suggested that Facebook is the most accessible platform for many people, so unless you have a strong aversion to FB, please post your reflections to the appropriate post at ‘Living Eucharist‘ – http://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015

Why this post? A reminder is available here.

The full sequence of catecheses is posted here.

A direct link to the writings and other teachings of Pope Francis is available here.

Photograph: Emmaüs: Chemin de Coix de la Prairie, Lourdes. (c) 2008, Allen Morris