By Christopher Wells
Joy was the prevailing theme of Pope Francis’ catechesis for the General Audience for Wednesday in Easter Week. The Holy Father reminded pilgrims that the Easter flowers speak to us of joy and gladness – the joy we feel in the flourishing of the Risen Christ, the flourishing of our justification, the flourishing of the holiness of the Church.
The celebration continues throughout the Paschal season, but especially during this week, when every day is celebrated like Easter Sunday. The Pope called on the crowd to greet one another with a joyful “Happy Easter,” and led them in extending Easter greetings to our “beloved Pope Benedict,” who, he said, was following the Easter celebrations on television.
Wednesday’s catechesis focused on the concluding rites of the Mass, the blessing and dismissal that follow the concluding prayer. With the blessing, which always follows a Trinitarian formula, the Mass concludes as it begins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Becoming more like Christ
But, Pope Francis says, the conclusion of the liturgy is not the end of our Christian life; rather, it is the beginning of our “commitment to Christian witness.” Christians, he said, “don’t go to Mass to fulfill a weekly duty and then forget about it." Christians go to Mass to participate in the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord, and then live even more as Christians. The Mass should lead us to participate even more in the life of Christ, to act as Jesus did – and this, he said, is Christian sanctity.
Pope Francis took care to explain that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist does not end with the Mass, but continues, which is why the Hosts are preserved in the tabernacle, both for the Communion of the sick and for Adoration. The worship of the Most Holy Sacrament in Adoration, he said, helps us to remain in Christ.
The fruits of the Mass
The Holy Father went on to describe the fruits of the Mass. The Mass, he said, is like a grain of wheat “that grows in our daily life, grows and matures in good works, in the attitudes that make us more like Jesus.”
When we go to Mass regularly, we grow in union with Christ, and are separated more and more from sin. Frequent participation in the liturgy renews and strengthens our bonds with one another in the Christian community. And finally, the Mass leads us to see Christ in our brothers and sisters, where He waits to be “recognized, served, honoured, and loved” by us.
“Bearing the treasure of union with Christ in earthen vessels,” he concluded, “we stand constantly in need of returning to the holy altar, until at last, in paradise, we might taste fully of the beatitude of the wedding feast of the Lamb.”