Throughout the course of this special Jubilee of Mercy, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken repeatedly on the theme of mercy in his weekly catechesis and in his general audiences. And running through these like a golden thread, has been the subject of the Eucharist.
In his first catechesis, given on 9th December 2015, the day after he commenced the Year of Mercy with the opening of the Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope had this to say –
“Turning our gaze to God, merciful Father, and to our brothers and sisters in need of mercy, means focussing our attention on the essential contents of the Gospel; Jesus, mercy made flesh, Who renders the great mystery of the Trinitarian love of God visible to our eyes..”
He then spoke over several weeks on signs of mercy, mercy and mission, mercy and justice, mercy and commitment, mercy and consolation, the Biblical foundations for a jubilee, and then mercy in the Old Testament. In March this year, he spoke about the Easter Triduum and the Jubilee of Mercy, and he said this –
“Everything in these three days speaks of mercy.. On Holy Thursday, Jesus institutes the Eucharist.. the Eucharist is the love that becomes service. It is the sublime Presence of Christ.. in giving Himself to us as food, Jesus attests that we must learn to share this nourishment with others so that it may become a true communion of life with those who are in need. He gives Himself to us and asks us to dwell in Him in order to do likewise.. It is all a great mystery of love and mercy.”
A few weeks later, in April this year, the Holy Father spoke about how God desires mercy, not sacrifice, and he described the Christian life as a school of humility which opens us to grace; pride, he noted, is a barrier to seeing the merciful face of God and from acting with mercy. He went on to speak about Jesus calling sinners to His table, echoing the words of Isaiah – ‘on this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all people a feast’ (cf. Is 25:6).
Pope Francis then spoke of how the Pharisees, seeing sinners at the table with Jesus, refused to be seated, leading a to a rebuke from Jesus, Who reminded them that they, too, are guests at the table. The Holy Father said this –
“Thus, sitting at the table with Jesus means being transformed and saved by Him. In the Christian community, the table of Jesus is two-fold; there is the table of the Word, and there is the table of the Eucharist (cf. ‘Dei Verbum’ n21). These are the medicines with which the Divine Physician heals us and nourishes us. With the first – the Word – He reveals Himself and invites us to a dialogue among friends. Jesus was not afraid to dialogue with sinners.. He loved everyone.. The Eucharist, for It’s part, nourishes us with the very life of Jesus, like an immensely powerful remedy and, in a mysterious way, It continuously renews the grace of our Baptism.. All of us are invited to the table of the Lord.”
In August, the Holy Father spoke again about the Eucharist, during a general audience which examined the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. He said this –
“By instructing His disciples to feed the crowd, He teaches them to have faith and invites them to share in His concern for those in need. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a concrete sign of that merciful concern. Matthew, in telling us that Jesus took the bread, looked up to Heaven, then blessed and broke it for the crowds, clearly evokes the institution of the Eucharist and the Last Supper. Through our partaking of the Eucharist, we not only receive spiritual nourishment, but, conformed ever more fully to the Lord, we become signs of His merciful presence to those around us.”
And so, as we continue in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, may the Lord grant all of us the grace to turn our gaze to the Merciful Father and to Him, Mercy made Flesh in the Eucharist; and in partaking of the Eucharist, may every one of us be nourished, renewed, transformed and made ever more like the Lord, so that we might truly become sign of His mercy to all those around us.