“What profoundness and what a treasure!
The Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself, the Lamb of God...”
Eminence Jozef Cardinal Tomko
VATICAN CITY, April 13, 2008 (ZENIT.org) – Benedict XVI named Cardinal Jozef Tomko as his representative for the upcoming 49th International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Canada this June. Cardinal Tomko, 84, is a past president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses and past prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Here is the homily given by Cardinal Josef Tomko during the Youth Summit in Quebec City on May 21, 2007 in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress.
I want to speak to you of the Eucharist and I find myself overwhelmed in the face of this task. I cannot use reason or human wisdom, nor scientific analyses, not even a brilliant language. Because I should approach with you, to that which we pronounce after the consecration: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith."
This is why I feel like Moses on Mount Horeb in front of the burning bush. We should take off our sandles, shut our eyes and listen to Him who invented the Eucharist.
We can understand the great mystery of faith only by means of a great faith! A Faith that requires to keep our ears and hearts open, but also a profound humility because it is God Himself who speaks to us. These are words that can seem "hard", difficult, and cause provoke the desertion of some, but we want to face these words with the faith of Peter and the twelve Apostles: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68). It is the faith of the early Church that remains the same even today because of the jealous and faithful transmission, of which St. Paul is the witness when he presents to the Corinthians the institution of the Eucharist: " For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you" (1 Co 11:23). And so, listen to the Lord who speaks to us in the Capernaum synagogue.
1. The sermon of Capernaum
It is the John the Evangelist who, in Chapter 6, gives us a faithful witness of the encounter with Jesus with the crowd that on the day before, wanted to make him a king. It was very useful to have him as a king because he is capable of resolving the problem of hunger by the multiplication of bread.
They did not understand that the miracle was only the preparation of another gift, much more precious and marvelous, the living bread, personified and descended from Heaven, that gives life to the world,. But the words of Jesus are very explicit, irrevocable and clear: "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." (Jn 6:51).
Be careful, this is not an imaginative, symbolic or poetic sermon; these are affirmations that are realistic, concrete, exacting. Jesus applies all of his authority when He confirms with a strength solemn to these occasions, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." (Jn 6:53-56).
We can understand the stupor and surprise of the disciples in front of this categorical announcement that changes the way of thinking but once accepted, reveals consoling and profound realities: the Eucharist is not a thing, it is a living Person, the Person of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist he becomes our Bread of life, our spiritual nourishment. He transmits to us His vital energy, life that assures us of a life that never ends; he promises to raise us from the dead.
It is a lot, almost too much, this promise of the Eucharist. In the simplicity of language, there are too many things to understand, to meditate, to introduce in our own lives. And this is not all on the Eucharist. Capernaum would also be realized and completed by the cenacle.
2. At the Cenacle.
It is during the feast of the Hebrew Passover that Jesus proceeded with the institution of the Eucharist, because – as St. John recounts – "knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1), this means without limit, without measure. He celebrated Passover in the same way as all the men in Israel, by a ritualistic meal in memory of the liberation of the slavery of Egypt. The Israelites were saved from death, thanks to the blood of the lamb with which they marked their houses. This is why the meal consists above all of a lamb eaten with vegetables and of course, with unleavened bread.
Jesus accomplished the ritual, but he surprised all of the apostles when, taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave to them saying: "This is my body, which is being given for you..." He did the same thing with the cup, after the meal, when he said: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which shall be shed for you." (cf. Lk 22: 19-20). Here is the great news: Instead of the lamb, Jesus places his own body and blood. This body will be given for us and this blood will be spilt for us, just a few hours after, on the cross. The "Lamb of God" – as John the Baptist said at the Jordan River – will be sacrificed that morning on Calvary, but the sacrifice is already instituted at the Cenacle.
Another great news is the commandment that Jesus left to his disciples: "Do this in memory of me". The early Church that stayed without the physical presence of Jesus on earth, immediately started to follow this order of the Lord. Saint Paul reminds the Corinthians if the profound signification of the Eucharistic sacrifice: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord." (1 Co 11: 26-27).
What profoundness and what a treasure! The Eucharist is Jesus Christ Himself, the Lamb of God, sacrificed and dead for our sins, but risen and source of a life that is eternal, Bread of life; it is the Person, the Presence, the meal, the scene, the banquet, the food, source of energy, the center of the life of the Church, it is the "Gift of God for the life of the world", as the program of your Congress announces.
It is God with us, the Man-God, our Emmanuel, who stays with us, for us and for the whole world.
"Let is proclaim this mystery of faith." If we believe, there is then much to do: adore, meditate, celebrate, contemplate, love, worship, sing, pray in silence and witness publicly.
3. The benefits and the expectations of the Eucharistic Congress.
A Eucharistic Congress, especially an international congress, offers many occasions for these activities: in-depth catechism classes, daily celebrations, witnesses, perpetual and simple adoration, silence, group meetings, visits to the sick, social works, different movements. There is one for each taste and interest.
The benefits are countless for each person who is present, for the ecclesiastical community and even for society.
You, you can find the meaning of life, the reason for living. You can discover another world, a world of faith, broaden the horizons and your knowledge. You can learn the art of loving the living God in the Eucharist, a way of adoration. Do you know how to adore? It is simple: like the simple peasant of Ars, of the parish of St. John Vianney who stayed a long time in front of the tabernacle, doing what? Nothing special – "I look at Him and He looks at me." You can try it: start to look and think that He is looking at you. When your gaze crosses, you are at the beginning of a new adventure in your life.
The Congress is also the occasion to meet many friends or even better, brothers and sisters, the family of God that is the Church.
The congress will take over your spirit of solidarity at the ecclesiastical and social level.
The benefits of the International Eucharistic Congress are many for the local Church. Each congress is a "Statio Orbis", where the representatives of the church of each continent (of the whole world –- that is "Orbis") stops for a few days in front of the Lord and Savior of humanity to adore and renew the necessary spiritual energy.
Concretely speaking: this congress will be a benediction from God not only for Quebec City, but also for all the dioceses of Canada, the United States, and the Universal Church. The congress signifies the rediscovery of the sense of the sacred that is missing in our society, the renewal of our faith, the source of our devotion. Together with our brothers and sisters we can discover the joy of believing, of being one family, the family of God, one community. We learn to taste the beauty of our liturgies and celebrations when they are well done; the sense of Sunday, the day of the Lord, for each Christian family with the Eucharist at the center, as the martyrs of Abilene that died without renouncing the dominical Eucharist: "sine Dominico non possumus vivere — without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live."
The congress helps us to understand and live another important aspect: the Eucharist as sacrifice and gift of "broken bread" for the life of the world. Listen to this invitation of Pope Benedict XVI:
"Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become ‘bread that is broken’ for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world." (Sacramentum caritatis, n. 88).
Entire continents are under the grip of hunger, thirst, incurable diseases and other physical and social diseases. Our material well-being perhaps caused our hearts to become hardened, or at the very least become indifferent to the tragic reality of our world. We need to change our hearts!
In conclusion, a congress is a cry to our conscience and our hearts, but it is at the same time a cry of hope, because in the Eucharist, the Lord of life stays with us as a "Gift of God for the life of the world." "Lord, stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over!" (Lk 24, 29).
Jozef Cardinal Tomko