Every time Holy Mass is celebrated, Jesus offers his sacrifice of obedience and of self-giving to the Father on our behalf and in union with us “for the remission of our sins” (cf. Mt 26:28). The Eucharist is therefore the sacrament of the victory of the Redeemer over the evil of the world, the sacrament which curbs the unleashing of the forces of sin by the saving power of Christ’s redeeming love. The Pope notes:
Every time that the words of consecration are pronounced in the Mass and the Body and Blood of the Lord are made present in the act of sacrifice, there is also present the triumph of love over hatred, of holiness over sin. Every Eucharistic celebration is more powerful than all the evil of the universe; it signifies a real concrete fulfillment of the Redemption and an ever deeper reconciliation of sinful humanity with God in the perspective of a better world. (1)
As the sacrament of the victory of good over evil, of love over hatred, the Eucharist is also “the source of our purification.” (2) It is a great call to conversion, “the place where we can verify the degree of our conformity to the radical message of Christ, in our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters.” (3) If we receive it as such a call, it brings forth in us its proper fruits. It transforms our lives. It makes us a “new man,” a “new creature” (cf. Gal 6:15; Eph 2:15; 2 Cor 5:17). It helps us not to be “overcome by evil, but to overcome evil by good” (cf. Rom 12:21), so that in us love may triumph over hatred, and zeal over indifference.
Mindful of the words of St. Paul, “Let man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11:28), the Holy Father notes that entering into a Eucharistic community we must first of all listen to the voice of the Lord, which calls us to conversion, and respond to its call.
Conversion means to enter into one’s very self, to encounter oneself in the depths of conscience, and to turn, full of faith, to the Father… The first part of the Eucharistic celebration always leads us to the consideration of this truth. Therefore, at the beginning of the Mass we first recollect ourselves in silence. This silence should serve the “conversion” of our hearts… Thus conversion becomes almost a normal rhythm of our life, almost a steady breathing of the soul. Let us live in this awareness. Let us live, continuously being converted… The Church is the Body of Christ; it is such, and yet, at the same time, it is always becoming such. The Church becomes the Body of Christ in the rhythm of conversion of hearts.” (4)
For this reason the Sacrament of Penance is so important in the life of every Christian. In fact, “the call to conversion in the Eucharist links the Eucharist with that other great Sacrament of God’s love, which is Penance. Every time that we receive the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, we receive the forgiveness of Christ, and we know that this forgiveness comes to us through the merits of his death—the very death that we celebrate in the Eucharist. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are all invited to meet Christ personally, and to do so frequently” declares John Paul. Therefore he asks us “to hold this Sacrament of Penance in special honor,… (for) the call to conversion and repentance comes from Christ, and always leads us back to Christ in the Eucharist.” (5)
“Standing by the Cross of Jesus Was His Mother” (cf. Jn 19:25)
The Gospels are silent with regard to Mary’s presence in the Upper Room when Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. Yet, Mary became a special witness of the reality which the Eucharist-Sacrament recalls, makes present and realizes ever anew: the redeeming Sacrifice of Christ. The Council teaches: “The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan…, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.” (6)