“Man, I can’t believe I saw the pope today! THE. POPE.” Everywhere I turn, I’m encountering men and women, young and old, believers and nonbelievers who are still in shock, electrified from the day’s events. And what a day it’s been! Months after the initial announcement, after countless preparations, programs, and prayers, Pope Francis was welcomed to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception overlooking the campus of The Catholic University of America. During his homily, Pope Francis called the church to rejoice, to proclaim the Good News to all and to step out of complacency and apathy. "Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which simply keep us comfortable," he said. It’s an experience people following the papal visit won’t soon forget, especially with all the coverage by global news outlets and social media alike. And yet, what will these people take away from the message of the Holy Father? Are they overjoyed to have been in his presence? Will they use the experience as a springboard to launch a new evangelization? Are they simply thrilled to post pope photos on social media in pursuit of as many “likes” and affirmations as possible? Are they annoyed because of the inconveniences brought about from having such a high level of security screen a crowd of tens of thousands of onlookers? What will the world remember from such an event?
“Peace be with you,” the Pope had greeted the crowds, an invitation to set aside any and all of the worries, the disappointments, the troubles, and the restlessness burdening each and every one of those attending the Mass. This may not be one of the famous one-liners of Pope Francis the media picked up on as they ran commentary, but those words have been recorded in Sacred Scripture thousands of years ago and continue to be repeated countlessly each and every day around the world. How necessary is it for us to recognize this great greeting of blessing and to appreciate the call for us to focus on God and His infinite love for us!
While the headlines will tell of Pope Francis’incredible addresses to the United Nations and a joint session of Congress for sure, the Holy Father isn’t as overly impressed by these displays of power. The only power he is awed by is that which radiates from the Cross and which resides perpetually in every tabernacle, which contains our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Most Holy Eucharist. The most incredible action then occurs at every Mass celebrated around the world--
and Pope Francis isn’t the first or only person to perform such a deed!
To those who find the Mass to be boring or unnecessary in their spiritual lives, Pope Francis reminds them that:
“The Eucharist is not a private prayer or a beautiful spiritual exercise, it is not a simple commemoration of what Jesus did at the Last Supper…[T]he Eucharist is Jesus himself who gives himself entirely to us. Nourishing ourselves of Him and abiding in Him through Eucharistic Communion, if we do so with faith,transforms our life, transforms it into a gift to God and to our brothers and sisters. Nourishing ourselves of that ‘Bread of Life’means entering into harmony with the heart of Christ, assimilating his choices, his thoughts, his behaviour. It means entering into a dynamism of love and becoming people of peace, people of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of sharing in solidarity. The very things that Jesus did.”
The Eucharist is meant for every person, every nation, and the entire world! Similarly, Jesus is as truly and substantially present on the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome as on the east portico of the National Shrine here in DC or on the altar in my high school’s chapel in Lincroft, New Jersey.
The mission of the Vicar of Christ, then, is to increase our faith and to bear witness to the love of our Lord and Savior. The Apostolic Visit to our nation is surely a tremendous and needed blessing: the faithful are united in the joy of the visit and are called to share this joy in their everyday lives and encounters with others. The Love realized in the Real Presence is the same which inspires and moves each of us to bring all, no matter their circumstances, to embrace and take part in this Love within the Universal Church.