POPE’S MESSAGE | Eucharistic prayer teaches us to make our whole life a Eucharist

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VATICAN CITY — Mass isn't a paid arrangement for salvation but rather the commemoration of Christ's sacrifice of his life, given freely to all, Pope Francis said.

Christians can make a silent prayer during Mass or donate money to offer a Mass for a loved one who is in need or passed away, but should never feel obliged to make a payment, the pope said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican March 7.

"Nothing! Understood? Nothing! You do not pay for the Mass! The Mass is Christ's sacrifice, which is free. Redemption is free. If you want to make an offering, do it. But you do not pay for it! This is important to understand!" he said.

Pope Francis held the audience in the Vatican's Paul VI hall due to forecasts of rain for Rome. The Vatican also opened St. Peter's Basilica to accommodate the overflow, with giant screens set up in the basilica so the people could follow the audience.

In his main talk, the pope continued his series on the Mass, focusing on the eucharistic prayer, "the central moment" in which Christians relive "what Jesus Himself did at the table with the apostles at the Last Supper."

"In this solemn prayer, the Church expresses what it does when she celebrates the Eucharist and the reason why she celebrates it, that is, to make communion with Christ truly present in the consecrated bread and wine," the pope said.

The eucharistic prayer, he explained, is composed of several formulas, beginning with the preface, "an action of thanksgiving for God's gifts" followed by the acclamation of "holy."

"It is beautiful to sing, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.' It is beautiful to sing it so that the entire assembly unites their voice with those of the angels and saints to praise and glorify God," he said.

During the consecration, he added, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ; it is "the mystery of faith" that all Christians must believe in.

"We should not have strange thoughts such as 'How can this be?' It is the body of Christ, and that's it. Faith; faith helps us to believe, it is an act of faith. But it is the body and blood of Christ," the pope said.

Pope Francis said that through the eucharistic prayer, Christians "learn three attitudes that should never be missing from Jesus' followers:" to give thanks always and everywhere, to make one's life a gift of love and to build communion in the Church and with everyone.

"This central prayer of the Mass educates us, little by little, to make of our whole life a 'Eucharist,'" the pope said. 

Don't hold grudges; forgiveness comes from forgiving others

VATICAN CITY — Christians must let go of resentments and forgive those who have wronged them so that they may experience God's forgiveness, Pope Francis.

This can be particularly difficult when "we carry with us a list of things that have been done to us," the pope said in his homily March 6 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"God's forgiveness is felt strongly within us as long as we forgive others. And this isn't easy because grudges make a nest in our heart and there is always that bitterness," he said.

The pope reflected on the day's first reading from the prophet Daniel in which Azariah, one of three young men condemned to death in a fiery furnace, courageously prays for deliverance from God.

"Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord," Azariah prayed.

Although Azariah is innocent of the crime he is condemned for, the pope explained, his attitude of recognizing his own personal sins is the same attitude Christian men and women should have when approaching the sacrament of penance.

"Accusing ourselves is the first step toward forgiveness," the pope said. "To accuse one's self is part of the Christian wisdom. No, not accusing others; (accuse) ourselves. 'I have sinned.'"

God, he added, "welcomes a contrite heart" and when Christians readily admit their faults, "the Lord covers our mouths like the father did to the prodigal son; He does not let him speak. His love covers it, He forgives all."

"These are the two things that help us understand the path of forgiveness: 'You are great Lord, unfortunately I have sinned' and 'Yes, I forgive you 70 times seven as long as you forgive others," Pope Francis said.

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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