ROME – Pope Francis made the Eucharist the focus of his weekly general audience Nov. 8 and emphasized the importance of attending and being participant at Mass in order to fully experience our relationship with God.
“The priest who celebrates Mass says: ‘Lift up your hearts.’ He doesn’t say: ‘Lift up your cellphones to take a photo.’ This is a bad thing,” the pope said in a off-the-cuff remark. “I tell you it makes me very sad when I celebrate Mass here in the square or at the Basilica and I see many cellphones raised. And it’s not only the faithful, but also many priests and bishops. Please! Mass is not a show!”
Having concluded the series of audiences on the theme of Christian hope, Francis has now begun to address the liturgy and the sacraments. While at Mass “the Lord is present with us but many times we talk among ourselves, we don’t celebrate close to him,” the pope said, adding that while people run to meet famous and important people, many are distracted when God is present at Mass.
“But the Lord is there!” Francis told the 13,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s square. “You say ‘but Mass is boring.’ Is the Lord boring? ‘No, no, it’s the priest.’ It’s the priests? Then the priests must convert!”
The pope explained why we do certain things during Mass. Among these things are confession, the readings and the sign of the Cross. “Have you seen the way children do the sign of the Cross?” Francis asked. “We must teach them how to do it well, because that is how Mass begins, that is how the day begins, so the day begins.
“The sign of the Cross means that we believe. Teach it well to children.”
The pope referred to the Second Vatican Council, which enacted a series of liturgical renewals in order to encourage the encounter between the faithful and Christ. He said that his audiences on liturgy carry on that legacy of focusing on the liturgical formation of the Church and its members through the sacraments.
“The Eucharist is an amazing event where Jesus Christ, our life, becomes present,” Francis said, adding that it allows faithful to experience the Passion of the Lord and to participate fully in the Mass.
“It’s very important to go back to the roots, rediscover what is essential, through what we touch and see in the celebration of the Sacraments,” he said.
The pope emphasized that there were points in history when Christians were not allowed to go to Church and take the sacraments, and that it’s still the case in many parts of the world today.
“We cannot forget the great number of Christians who, in the entire world, in two thousand years of history, have resisted until death to defend the Eucharist,” Francis said. “And those, still today, who risk their life to participate at Sunday Mass.”
The pope recounted the story of Christians in North Africa who were caught celebrating Mass in 304, during the persecutions by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. When asked why they had faced such danger, the Christians said that their Christian life would end if they did not go to Mass. They were killed and became witnesses of the Eucharist, which they chose over this mortal life.
“It’s a witness that questions us all and begs an answer on what it means for each of us to take part in the sacrifice of Mass and approach the table of the Lord,” the pope said.
He added that the word Eucharist means thanksgiving, because we thank God for allowing us to receive him, and the Holy Spirit transforms the communion in love. For the ‘doubting Thomases’ of the world, who can only believe what they see and touch, the pope added that the wine and bread of the Eucharist are a way for us to “touch” the Lord.
“The Sacraments meet this human need,” Francis said. “The Sacraments, and the Eucharistic celebration in particular, are the signs of God’s love, the privileged ways to meet with Him.”
After translating his message in several languages the pope bestowed his blessing on the crowd and prayed to the Madonna to accompany them on this new journey.