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The Year of the Eucharist: A time for meeting Christ

on Friday, 01 October 2004. Posted in Eucharist

On October 17, 2004, after presiding over a solemn Mass and adoring the Blessed Sacrament in a crowded St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope addressed a message through television to the pilgrims gathered in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the closing of the 48th International Eucharistic Congress:

"I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20). In contemplation before the Eucharist, at this moment we experience with special vividness the truth of Christ's promise: He is with us! (...)

"The Eucharist, Light and Life of the New Millennium." The theme of the Congress invites us to consider the Eucharistic Mystery not only in itself, but also in relation to the problems of our time.

Mystery of light! The human heart, burdened with sin, often bewildered, weary and tried by sufferings of all kinds, has need of light. The world needs light, in the difficult quest for a peace that seems remote, at the beginning of a millennium overwhelmed and humiliated by violence, terrorism and war.

The Eucharist is light! In the Word of God constantly proclaimed, in the bread and wine that have become the Body and Blood of Christ, it is precisely he, the resurrected Lord, who opens minds and hearts and makes us recognize him, as he made the two disciples at Emmaus recognize him, in the "breaking of the bread" (cf. Luke 24:25). In this convivial gesture we relive the sacrifice of the Cross, we experience God's infinite love, we feel called to spread Christ's light among the men and women of our time.

Mystery of life! What aspiration can be greater than life? Yet threatening shadows are hanging over this universal hope: the shadow of a culture that denies respect for life in all its stages; the shadow of an indifference that relegates countless people to a destiny of hunger and underdevelopment; the shadow of scientific research that is sometimes used to serve the selfishness of the most powerful.

Dear brothers and sisters, the needs of our many brothers and sisters call us into question. We cannot close our hearts to their pleas for help. Nor can we forget that "one does not live by bread alone" (cf. Matthew 4:4). We are in need of the "living bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:51). Jesus is this bread. Nourishing ourselves on him means welcoming God's life itself (cf. John 10:10) and opening ourselves to the logic of love and sharing.

I desired this Year to be dedicated especially to the Eucharist. In fact, every day, particularly Sunday, the day of Christ's Resurrection, the Church lives this mystery. But, in this Year of the Eucharist, the Chris. tian community is invited to become more aware of it through a more deeply felt celebration, prolonged and fervent adoration, and a greater commitment to brotherhood and the service of the least. The Eucharist is the source and manifestation of communion. It is the principle and plan of mission (cf. "Mane Nobiscum Domine," Chapters 3 and 4).

Therefore, in the footsteps of Mary, "woman of the Eucharist" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," Chapter 6), the Christian community lives this mystery! Strengthened by the "bread of eternal life", it becomes a presence of light and life, a leaven of evangelization and solidarity.

"Mane nobiscum, Domine!" Like the two disciples of the Gospel, we implore you, Lord Jesus, stay with us! Divine Wayfarer, expert in our ways and reader of our hearts, do not leave us prisoners to the evening shadows. Sustain us in our weariness, forgive our sins and direct our steps on the path of goodness. Bless the children, the young people, the elderly, families, and the sick in particular. Bless the priests and consecrated persons. Bless all humanity.

In the Eucharist you made yourself the "medicine of immortality": give us the taste for a full life that will help us journey on as trusting and joyful pilgrims on this earth, our gaze fixed on the goal of life without end. Stay with us, Lord! Stay with us! Amen.

At the end of his address, the Holy Father said: I am now delighted to announce that the next International Eucharistic Congress will be celebrated in Quebec City in 2008.

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