Pope: Seek Christ in 'abandoned tabernacles' of the poor, the lonely

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) — As he did with his disciples at Passover,
Jesus asks all Christians to prepare a place for him, not in “exclusive,
selective places” but rather in uncomfortable places that are
“untouched by love, untouched by hope,” Pope Francis said.

“How many persons lack dignified housing or food to
eat! All of us know people who are lonely, troubled and in need: they are
abandoned tabernacles. We, who receive from Jesus our own room and board, are
here to prepare a place and a meal for these, our brothers and sisters in
need,” the pope said in his homily during Mass June 3, the feast of the
Body and Blood of Christ.

Pope Francis celebrated the feast day Mass not in Rome, as
had been the tradition since 1979, but in the seaside town of Ostia, about 16
miles west. Ostia was where St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, died in
387 on a journey back to Africa after St. Augustine’s conversion to

During his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI celebrated the feast
day in different neighborhoods in and around Rome, including in Ostia in 1968.

Pope Francis’ evening Mass outside St. Monica Church was
followed by a Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Ostia.

A local priest carried the monstrance containing the Blessed
Sacrament, surrounded by four men carrying tall poles holding a canopy.
Thousands of men, women and children lined the streets, taking photos and
reverently making the sign of the cross as the Blessed Sacrament passed them.

Due to his difficulty walking long distances, Pope Francis met
the procession at the Church of Our Lady of Bonaria instead of participating in

Before the benediction, the pope stood before the Blessed
Sacrament, head bowed in silent prayer, while the choir sang “Tantum
Ergo,” the medieval Eucharistic hymn composed by St. Thomas Aquinas.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading in
which Jesus instructs his disciples to find a place to celebrate the Passover.

Although the disciples were supposed to prepare the place,
the pope noted, they discover a large room that is “furnished and

“Jesus prepares for us and asks us to be prepared,”
the pope said. “What does he prepare for us? A place and a meal. A place
much more worthy than the ‘large furnished room’ of the Gospel.”

That place here on earth, the pope said, is the church
“where there is, and must be, room for everyone.”

The Eucharist, he added, “is the beating heart of the
church” and strengthens all men and women who partake in it.

When receiving Jesus’ body and blood, Christians are not
only given their “reservation” to the heavenly banquet, but also
nourished with the “bread of heaven,” which is “the only matter
on earth that tastes of eternity,” he said.

All men and women, he continued, have a hunger to be loved
and are never fully satisfied, even when receiving “the most pleasing
compliments, the finest gifts and the most advanced technologies.”

Instead, by receiving Communion and worshipping Christ in
the tabernacle, Christians “encounter Jesus” and feel his love.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us choose this food of
life! Let us make Mass our priority!” he exclaimed. “Let us
rediscover Eucharistic adoration in our communities! Let us implore the grace
to hunger for God, with an insatiable desire to receive what he has prepared
for us.”

Pope Francis said that by giving themselves in service to
others, Christians live “eucharistically” and imitate Jesus who
“became bread broken for our sake.”

Like the disciples, who were instructed by Jesus to go out
to the city to make preparations, Christians also are called
to prepare for Jesus’ coming “not by keeping our distance but by entering
our cities” and tearing down “the walls of indifference and silent

“The Eucharist invites to let ourselves be carried
along by the wave of Jesus, to not remain grounded on the beach in the hope
that something may come along, but to cast into the deep, free, courageous and
united,” the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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