What makes us one
“Let us simply thank God that you and I have been invited into the life of the Risen Lord and are privileged to encounter him every time we celebrate this Holy Eucharist – this Holy Mass”
by Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl on 18 April 2012 in the Roman Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, on the occasion of the pilgrimage to Rome of the Papal Foundation [© Paolo Galosi]
We come together at this historic and ancient Roman Church to renew our faith. What brings us to this church this morning is an act of personal faith. We are here because we need to be here. We need once again to hear the proclamation that is at the heart of our faith. Christ is risen!
On Easter Sunday with joy and exaltation, the entire Church throughout the world proclaimed once again, as it has done for nearly twenty centuries, “Christ is Risen!”
Today we continue that proclamation and come together to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus for two reasons: to reaffirm our own personal faith in Jesus’ Resurrection, and to rejoice in what it means for each of us – new life in Christ. We were not there at the empty tomb of the Resurrection, so we need to hear, again, the testimony of those who were.
The touchstone for all of those generations and generations and generations of witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus is here in Rome, the city of Saint Peter – the Rock on which our testimony stands.
In the context of the celebration of Easter, we also celebrate this Mass in honor of Saint Peter, head of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ. Today the voice and message, the proclamation and teaching of Peter continue to echo in our hearts because they echo throughout the whole world. The touchstone of the proclamation is Peter. All of us have a special bond to Rome because Peter continues to live and exercise his ministry here. We who come from various parts of the United States recognize the unique role of Peter.
This Mass recalls for us the great gratitude that must fill our hearts. We thank God for the gift of faith. In the first reading, today taken from the First Letter of Peter, we are told how we are to look to the presbyters, to the examples to the flock in both faith and ministry.
We are a people of faith. What identifies us as a community is precisely the gift of faith for which each of us needs to be so profoundly grateful. As a people of faith, we recognize the great gift that Jesus gives us – his Church, his new Body. When we give thanks to God for so many blessings, we include the gift of the Church – Christ’s continuing presence in the world today. We also give thanks for our Holy Father, the visible head of the Church who is the touchstone of our faith and our unity.
Last November I had the great privilege of concelebrating with our Holy Father at Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The day before, he handed me the Papal bull naming me to this ancient and historic church. It is one of only two ancient churches in Rome that bear the name Peter – Saint Peter in the Vatican and Saint Peter in Chains. That ceremony highlighted the bonds that every Cardinal has with Rome, as a priest of one of its parishes, and with Rome’s Bishop, Peter.
Five years ago, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, came to the United States and at National Park in the Archdiocese of Washington, he began his celebration of the Eucharist with us by telling us “in the exercise of my ministry as the successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Luke 22, 32).”
Today we return the visit. We come to profess our faith, our loyalty and our love for the Successor of Peter.
Today our celebration is a visible sign of the communion of faith spread throughout the whole world and how it is anchored here in Rome, where Peter lives now, bearing the name Benedict XVI. But there is still more that makes us one. As we complete these reflections on the Word of God and our visit to Rome, we join the Risen Lord, who is present with us in the Eucharist. The Gospel tells us that Jesus sat at a table with disciples and then, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. With that, their eyes were open and they recognized him”.
After the celebrant shows the consecrated host and the chalice of Precious Blood to the people at Mass, he genuflects in adoration and then joins the people in one of several proclamations expressing the core of our Catholic faith. “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again”.
Our faith teaches us that “when the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and the work of our redemption is carried out” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11). For this reason we can rightfully speak of the Mass as the source and summit of our Christian life.
In our celebration today we recognize and we proclaim that because we are members of the Church in communion with Peter and his successors, we not only hear the Good News that Christ is risen, but we actually recognize him in the breaking of the bread and share in the mystery of his death and Resurrection – in the Eucharist.
Let us simply thank God that you and I have been invited into the life of the Risen Lord and are privileged to encounter him every time we celebrate this Holy Eucharist – this Holy Mass.
At the same time, we ask God to continue to bless the Church of Rome, to which we now are bound in a particular way through this church of Saint Peter in Chains, and to bless its faithful people and its Chief Shepherd, Benedict XVI – Peter, today.
(Edited by Giovanni Cubeddu. The text of this homily delivered in Saint Peter in Chains, in Rome, on 18 April 2012, was reviewed by the author for 30Giorni)