The unity of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and his eternal priesthood is seen in Christ's Most Precious Blood, said Pope Benedict XVI at Saturday Mass. Calling it “the source of the Church's life,” he explained that the Church continues to share in Christ's Passion through the Eucharist and to be unified to Him through suffering and priestly dedication.
The Pope's homily on Saturday morning focused on the name of the cathedral where he was celebrating in London's city of Westminster, the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The celebration of the votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood in place of the day's regular liturgy and the red vestments worn by the concelebrants reinforced the pontiff's message.
Greeting the Holy Father after a phenomenal procession to the altar punctuated by the organ, trumpets, cymbal crashes and solemn song was Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, who pledged the fidelity of the Church to the Pope's pastorship and called him a "sign and servant of unity in the whole church."
During his homily, the Holy Father referred to the symbolism of the cathedral's massive cross showing the "crushed" Christ on a red background. He said that the mystery of the Precious Blood illustrates the unity of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and his eternal priesthood.
Jesus' blood shed on the cross, he explained, is "the source of the Church's life." And, he added, as the Church obeys His command of "do this in memory of me" until his return, through the Eucharist it "rejoic(es) in His sacramental presence and draw(s) upon the power of His saving grace for the redemption of the world."
"The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of our Lord's continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age."
Christ still unites himself to humanity's sufferings, needs, hopes and aspirations from the Cross, explained the Pope, and in the trials and tribulations in the life of the Church, "Christ continues ... to be in agony until the end of the world."
This aspect of the mystery is represented by martyrs who joined in His sacrifice by shedding their own blood in suffering persecution for the faith, said Benedict XVI. He added that this mystery is also present, "often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world."
Those particularly "united to the Eucharist," he explained, are the sick, elderly, handicapped and everyone who suffers mentally and spiritually. "Here too," said the Pope, "I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers."
Continuing his reflection by examining the eternal priesthood of the Lord, the Pope said that, "as members of his body," all Christians are called to responsibility of bringing "the reconciling power of his sacrifice" into the world.
He prayed that the example of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be beatified on Sunday, will inspire believers to dedicate every part of their being to Christ and to commit themselves to defending "those unchanging moral truths which ... stand at the foundation of a truly humane, just and free society."
Of the importance of the witness of lay people to perpetuating the Church's mission, he asked for prayer that Catholics might have greater consciousness of "their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness."
Inviting prayers for vocations to the priesthood so that the celebration of the sacrifice of the Eucharist might continue on earth, he asked also for the ever fuller unity of the faithful to Christ, to share in His sacrifice and to offer him "that spiritual worship which embraces every aspect of our lives and finds expression in our efforts to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom."