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On Corpus Christi, Pope Says Eucharist Offers Immunity From Sadness

Pope Francis raises the monstrance during eucharistic adoration at the end of Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, May 5, 2020. (Photo: CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Elise Anne Allen

ROME (Crux) — On the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis said the Eucharist can heal bad memories that prevent people from being open and accepting God’s love, including memories of past mistakes, of wrongs endured and wounds, making the heart hard and indifferent.

Speaking of the importance of memory, the pontiff in his June 14 homily asked, “What if the chain of transmission of memories is interrupted? … How can we remember what we have only heard, if we have not also experienced it?”

“God knows how difficult it is, he knows how weak our memory is, and he has done something remarkable: He left us a memorial. He did not just leave us words, for it is easy to forget what we hear. He did not just leave us the scriptures, for it is easy to forget what we read. He did not just leave us signs, for we can forget even what we see,” he said.

Rather, he said, God “gave us food, for it is not easy to forget something we have actually tasted. He left us bread in which he is truly present, alive and true, with all the flavor of his love.”

“We cannot do without the Eucharist, for it is God’s memorial,” he said, and “it heals our wounded memory.”

Reflecting on different kinds of wounded memories, Pope Francis said the Eucharist first heals an “orphaned memory,” which results from a lack of love and affection, or the “bitter disappointments caused by those who should have given them love and instead orphaned their heart.”

“We would like to go back and change the past, but we cannot. God, however, can heal these wounds by placing within our memory a greater love: His own love,” he said.

Another type of memory the Holy Father said is healed by the Eucharist is “negative memory,” which dwells on what was done wrong and can leave people “with the sad notion that we are useless, that we only make mistakes, that we are ourselves a mistake.”

“Jesus comes to tell us that this is not so,” Pope Francis said, insisting that every time the Eucharist is received, it is a reminder that each person is precious and friends with whom God wants to be close.

This, he said, is not just because God is generous, but because “he is truly in love with us. He sees and loves the beauty and goodness that we are. The Lord knows that evil and sins do not define us; they are diseases, infections. And he comes to heal them with the Eucharist, which contains the antibodies to our negative memory.”

“With Jesus, we can become immune to sadness,” he said. “We will always remember our failures, troubles, problems at home and at work, our unrealized dreams. But their weight will not crush us because Jesus is present even more deeply, encouraging us with his love.”

Insisting that the Eucharist transforms Christians into “bringers of joy,” Pope Francis urged Mass-goers to ask themselves what they bring to the world, whether it is sadness and bitterness, the tendency to feel sorry for oneself, or the joy of God, which “can change lives.”

He also spoke of what he called “closed memory,” which he said consists of wounds kept inside and which “create problems not only for us, but also for others. They make us fearful and suspicious. We start with being closed and end up cynical and indifferent.”

“Our wounds can lead us to react to others with detachment and arrogance, in the illusion that in this way we can control situations,” he said, insisting that “love can heal fear at its root and free us from the self-centeredness that imprisons us.”

In the Eucharist, Jesus appears in the “disarming simplicity” of a host and not only “breaks open the shells of our selfishness,” the p0ntiff said, adding that Jesus also teaches believers that by opening their hearts, they can be set free from internal barriers and “the paralysis of the heart.”

Pope Francis cautioned Christians against chasing “the myriad illusions that we think we cannot do without, yet that leave us empty within,” saying that the Eucharist both satisfies the craving for material things, and rekindles a desire to serve others.

“It raises us from our comfortable and lazy lifestyle and reminds us that we are not only mouths to be fed, but also his hands, to be used to help feed others,” he said, adding that in the time of the coronavirus, it is especially urgent “to take care of those who hunger for food and for dignity, of those without work and those who struggle to carry on.”

“Genuine closeness is needed, as are true bonds of solidarity,” he said, noting that in the Eucharist, “Jesus draws close to us: let us not turn away from those around us!”

He closed his homily urging faithful to spend more time in Eucharistic adoration, which he said is a continuation of the Mass. “This will do us much good,” he said, “for it heals us within. Especially now, when our need is so great.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass Sunday for the solemnity of Corpus Christi, which commemorates Jesus’s body and blood, and which brings an end to the Easter season on the Catholic liturgical calendar.

Traditionally he leads an outdoor Eucharistic procession on the feast. As part of ongoing coronavirus concerns, this year the procession was eliminated and his Mass was celebrated indoors and livestreamed from St. Peter’s Basilica.

Some 50 faithful were present, spaced out in accordance with social distancing guidelines. After communion, it is expected that a consecrated host will be displayed in adoration for several minutes before the pope himself takes it and blesses those present before placing it back in the tabernacle and concluding the Mass.

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