OFFICIAL VISIT OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO PERU
CLOSING OF THE NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS OF PERU
Cathedral of Chimbote
This Eucharistic celebration concludes the National Eucharistic Congress which I had the honour of opening a short time ago.
I cannot fail to recall yet again that a few days ago in a vast region of Peru, a terrible earthquake took a heavy toll of human victims, causing many injuries and untold material damage. This tragic event, and it could not have been otherwise, has tinged my visit with sorrowful tones.
As it draws to a close, I would like to ask the Lord once again never to let those suffering as a result of the earthquake to lack his support and to ensure that the solidarity of their brothers and sisters brings them some relief in this harsh trial.
Let us ask Jesus in the Eucharist to be with us always in this mystery of immense love; let us ask this of Mary, our sweet Mother to whom we solemnly renew the consecration of the entire Peruvian People. With these sentiments I offer my heartfelt greetings to you all.
I cordially greet the Cardinal, whom I also thank for his words at the beginning of Holy Mass. I greet the other Prelates, priests, men and women religious and all the lay faithful, with a special remembrance for the sick and those who have been unable to take part in this solemn celebration but who are united with us via radio and television.
I address a respectful greeting to the civil and military Authorities who have desired to take part in this liturgical event of such great value to the Peruvian Nation. I am pleased to convey to each and every one the Greeting and Blessing of the Holy Father, who is united in spirit with this community expression of Eucharistic and Marian faith.
Dear brothers and sisters, the liturgy we are celebrating is truly special: it is a Eucharist, one might say, raised "to the power of two". Indeed, although every Holy Mass is a thanksgiving to God, at the conclusion of a Eucharistic Congress the intensity of praise is amplified by all the time of adoration - consisting of the presence, silence, contemplation, meditation, sentiments... - which the Christian community of Peru has lived in these days of grace.
Seen in this perspective, today's Liturgy of the Word acquires even greater light and power. We are meditating upon it with the gaze of the heart fixed on the Eucharist. In these Holy Scriptures, we recognize and contemplate with the eyes of faith the Face of Jesus, this Face we have adored and continue to adore in the mystery of the Eucharist.
Thus, while the light of Christ's Face illumines the Word of God, it enables us at the same time to appreciate the depth of the Eucharistic mystery.
As the experiences of the Church and the Saints' lives show, the Word and the Bread of Life are related, and the Banquet which contains them both nourishes minds and hearts, inspiring generous resolutions of Christian commitment.
Therefore, in the light of the Eucharist, let us receive the Word that has just been proclaimed. These are the Readings for the Solemnity of St Rose of Lima, which are also particularly apt for this occasion. Let us now meditate on them in a Eucharistic perspective.
The First Reading is taken from the Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus. It is a teaching on the virtue of humility as an essential element of true wisdom.
The teacher addresses his disciple as "son", typical of the sapiential genre, and exhorts him to be humble and modest, to be mindful of his limitations, hence, not to seek excessively lofty things.
The true Teacher is Christ, who always, and especially in these days, speaks to the Christian People of Peru and to the whole world from the "cathedra" of the Eucharist. And the Eucharist is truly the highest school of humility and spiritual wisdom, the source of heartfelt peace.
In the Eucharist we are nourished by Jesus Christ, the supreme manifestation of God's humility. In receiving him, we can assimilate his divine humility and, following his example, we can become builders of peace and love.
The Second Reading, on the other hand, through the Apostle Paul's wonderful account, invites us to see the Eucharist as the synthesis of the relationship of faith and love established between the disciple and his Lord, a relationship where Christ's grace always has the primacy but where the person's response is also required, a response that expresses willingness to let himself be converted and "conquered" by the divine Teacher.
We know that what St Paul designated as his desire to "know Christ", and thereby to participate in the Paschal Mystery of his death and Resurrection (cf. Phil 3: 10-11), attains its highest point precisely through the Sacrament of the Eucharist: it is in the Eucharist that the Christian "knows" Jesus in the fullest and most real way, that is to say, he enters into deep intimacy with him.
By nourishing himself frequently and faithfully with his Body and Blood, the baptized person enters increasingly into communion with him, encounters him risen and living, and at the same time shares in his passion and his death.
We see here how the Apostle to the Gentiles, with his characteristic temperament, emphasizes the dynamic character of his relationship with Christ.
Those who have been "conquered" by his love are driven towards the definitive encounter with God. In this perspective, the Eucharist is nourishment for the journey and a pledge of the final destination.
By being nourished with Christ in the Eucharist, we do not fear difficulties, we are not blocked by obstacles, but rather press on undeterred towards the ultimate destination of our human life, "for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3: 14).
Let us now focus on the Gospel. In it, Jesus teaches us with two short but important parables, supremely significant for our Christian life: the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven (cf. Mt 13: 31-35). Above all, the mustard seed.
When we adore the Most Holy Sacrament, when we remain with our eyes fixed on the consecrated Host, we cannot refrain from thinking and saying in our hearts: Lord Jesus, how tiny you made yourself! You who are infinite desired to make yourself the smallest one, just like the mustard seed in the Gospel, the smallest of all seeds but which, once it had grown, became a leafy tree where the birds could build their nests.
In his parables, the Lord Jesus often made use of the image of the seed because it expresses many of the aspects of the dynamism of the Kingdom of Heaven: it develops by an innate power of its own, it must first die in the earth to be able subsequently to sprout and to bear fruit; at the outset it is invisible and hidden but is later manifest in the goodness and beauty of its fruits.
We too, dear brothers and sisters, must become seed, hidden in the earth, in other words, through humility and obedience to the divine will, which germinate and bear abundant fruit of love and of eternal life. At the end of the National Eucharistic Congress, let us renew our willingness for this.
We know well, nevertheless, that every seed must "die" if it is to bear fruit. This is what also happens to the Christian who desires to commit himself to following the Lord faithfully: he must be prepared to die to himself in order to live for Christ alone.
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone", Jesus said, "but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12: 24). He himself was the first to give us an example when he brought his mission of salvation to completion on the Cross: with his death he redeemed the world!
The other parable, on the leaven, helps us to understand better the mystery of the Eucharist in its intimate and spiritual dynamism.
The leaven is reminiscent of the continuous growth of the Kingdom of Heaven and especially of its inner dynamism, and of the fact that although its presence and action are invisible they can be recognized by the effects they produce.
Jesus is "hidden" in the Eucharist to be the leaven of the Kingdom of Heaven, to prolong his presence and paschal action among human beings until the Kingdom is established and God is "everything to everyone" (cf. I Cor 15: 28).
This ultimate goal is anticipated in sacramental form in every Eucharistic celebration: when the faithful are well disposed and take part in Holy Communion, God is in fact "everything to everyone", and they form the Mystical Body of Christ.
Dear brother and sisters, in these days your communities have knelt in adoration before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. When the Church pauses in communal adoration before the Eucharist, she has as her centre the One who effectively is her centre, the active principle of her unity and mission: Jesus, who made himself seed, the tiniest of seeds, to enter the deepest fibres of creation and of humanity, and thereby transform the cosmos and history from within; Jesus, who made himself leaven, the best of leavens, so that humanity might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10: 10) and reach the highest degree of maturity, to the point of making himself the "dwelling of God... with men" (Rv 21: 3).
These short but incisive Gospel parables also help us to interiorize better the theme of this National Eucharistic Congress which we are now concluding: "Christ gave himself for us, so that we may have life in him".
As I already had the opportunity to recall in Chimbote, this theme brings the Congress into a close relationship with the recent General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences last May, which was solemnly opened by the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
There can be no authentic renewal in Christian communities, it will not be possible to give life to the "great continental mission" desired in Latin America, without starting from Christ and centering everything on the Eucharist.
Yes, we must constantly start out afresh from the Eucharist. We must never tire of looking at and imitating Jesus, who, like the grain of wheat buried in the earth, sacrificed himself by dying on the Cross.
From his death sprang new, full and eternal life; life that is given to those who enter into true and personal communion with him and with the mystery of his love.
To "eat Christ" means, as our common language says very well, "to be in communion" with him: He in us and we in him, God in man and man in God.
Authentic ecclesial communion stems from this mystery of love, from this personal communion with Christ. For this reason, the Eucharist, which should always be restored to the centre of the life of all our communities, entails and demands of us an approach of deep communion. The Eucharist creates communion and educates us in communion.
In writing to the Christians of Corinth, St Paul clearly highlighted how their divisions, expressed in the Eucharistic assemblies, were in contrast with what they were celebrating, that is, with the Lord's Supper.
Consequently, the Apostle invited each one to reflect on the true reality of the Eucharist in order to be committed to returning to the spirit of fraternal communion (cf. I Cor 11: 17-34).
St Augustine effectively echoed this demand when he remarked, recalling the Apostle's words: "You are the Body of Christ and individually members of it" (I Cor 12: 27). And Augustine observed: "If you are his Body and his members, on the table of the Lord lies what is in fact your mystery; and you receive what is your mystery" (cf. Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247).
Dear brothers and sisters of Peru, only if this communion enlivens each one of the communities will it be possible for you to tackle confidently the great challenges of the present time. Christ alone can give true hope to your Country and to the peoples of the Latin American Continent. In remaining faithful to his Gospel, they will be able to progress, keeping pace with the rhythm of the universal Church.
Who other than Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, can help us to carry out this mission which is incumbent on us all?
Today, let us consecrate this Nation in spiritual union with the Shrines dedicated to her in the regions of this beautiful Country: in the North, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Gate in Otuzco, Libertad; in the South, the Shrine of Our Lady of Chapi, Arequipa; on the plateau, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Candelaria, Puno, without forgetting "Our Lady of Evangelization" whom you venerate in the Cathedral Basilica of Lima, whose image the Servant of God John Paul II crowned during his Visit in 1985, honouring her on his next Visit with a golden rose.
We commend ourselves to you, Mary, whom we call upon under the title of Our Lady of Mercy, the Grand Marshal of Peru, Our Lady of Evangelization, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and with other beautiful names that are so dearly loved by the Peruvian People.
To you we consecrate the Bishops, priests and seminarians, men and women religious, catechists and pastoral workers, the young and the elderly, the families, the cities and villages of this Land, already placed under your motherly protection centuries ago.
May you continue, Mary, to watch over the Church and the Nation. Grant that all Christians may be ever more faithful disciples of Christ; bring harmony, justice and peace to the People of Peru, to the American Continent and to the whole world!
Mother of God and our Mother, hear us. Amen.