On Wednesday Pope Francis said the Eucharist is key to living an authentic Christian witness, and that those who leave Mass unchanged, continuing to gossip or hold onto unholy habits, have missed the point.
“While the Mass ends, the commitment for Christian witness opens. We leave the church to go in peace to bring the blessing of God to our daily activities, to our homes, to our work, to the affairs of the earthly city, glorifying the Lord with our lives,” the pope said April 4.
The Mass, he said, is not just a weekly commitment that can be forgotten about once people go out the church doors.
“No. Christians go to Mass to participate in the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord, and to live as better Christians,” he said. “If we leave the church gossiping” or talking badly about other people, then “the Mass didn’t enter into my heart, because I am not capable of living Christian testimony.”
“Every time I leave Mass I must leave better than I went in,” he said, adding that the Eucharist should leave a person with a better heart, a better spirit and “a stronger desire to live as a Christian.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in a rainy St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, which this week fell during the Octave of Easter and was dedicated to his last round of catechesis on the Mass.
Francis opened with an aside wishing pilgrims a happy Easter and saying the flowers adorning the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica are representative of the joy and happiness that blossom after Christ’s resurrection.
He asked pilgrims to join him in wishing retired Pope Benedict XVI — who he said was watching the audience on television — a happy Easter, and told them to give his predecessor a big round of applause.
In his speech, the pope focused on the concluding rite of Mass, in which believers are told to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
The Mass, particularly with this commission, “finds fulfillment in the concrete choices one makes [and] involves us first-hand in the mysteries of Christ,” he said.
“We cannot forget that we celebrate the Eucharist to learn to become Eucharistic men and women,” he said, explaining that this means allowing Christ to act in and through the choices one makes, taking on his thoughts, feelings and actions.
St. Paul expresses this clearly when he speaks of his own assimilation to Jesus, saying he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him, Francis said, explaining that the apostle’s experience “also illuminates us.”
“In the measure in which we mortify our egoism, meaning we allow what opposes the Gospel and the love of Jesus to die, greater space is created in us for the power of his Spirit,” he said.
And while the liturgy is a prime way to gain great unity with Jesus, Francis noted that the presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine “does not end with the Mass.” Rather, the Eucharist is kept in the tabernacle in order to give communion to the sick who are unable to attend Mass, and it is also kept for moments of “silent adoration” through the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
“Eucharistic worship outside of the Mass, whether in private or in community, helps us to remain in Christ” and imitate his words and actions, Francis said, adding that Christians are men and women “who allow their soul to grow with the strength of God.”
“Not these small, tight, egoistic souls,” he said, but “great souls” who allow themselves to grow with the strength of the Holy Spirit and after being washed by the body and blood of Christ.
The Eucharist also separates us from sin, he said, because “the more we participate in the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to separate ourselves from him with mortal sin.”
Community is also an essential element of the Mass, he said, because the Eucharist “makes the Church,” and ought to lead to an increased commitment in service of the poor, who bear the flesh of Christ.
Pope Francis closed his audience asking pilgrims to give thanks to the Lord “for the path of rediscovering the holy Mass which he has given us to walk together,” and prayed that each person would allow themselves “to be attracted with a renewed faith to this real encounter with Jesus, died and risen for us.”
“May our lives always flourish like this, like Easter, with flowers of hope and good works, that we always find the strength for this in the Eucharist, in union with Jesus.”