�Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening� (cf. Lk 24:29).
This was the insistent invitation that the two disciples journeying to Emmaus on the evening of the day of the resurrection addressed to the Wayfarer who had accompanied them on their journey. Weighed down with sadness, they never imagined that this stranger was none other than their Master, risen from the dead. Yet they felt their hearts burning within them (cf. v. 32) as he spoke to them and �explained� the Scriptures. The light of the Word unlocked the hardness of their hearts and �opened their eyes� (cf. v. 31). Amid the shadows of the passing day and the darkness that clouded their spirit, the Wayfarer brought a ray of light which rekindled their hope and led their hearts to yearn for the fullness of light. �Stay with us�, they pleaded. And he agreed. Soon afterwards, Jesus' face would disappear, yet the Master would �stay� with them, hidden in the �breaking of the bread� which had opened their eyes to recognize him�
�Amid our questions and difficulties, and even our bitter disappointments, the divine Wayfarer continues to walk at our side, opening to us the Scriptures and leading us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God. When we meet him fully, we will pass from the light of the Word to the light streaming from the �Bread of life�, the supreme fulfilment of his promise to �be with us always, to the end of the age� (cf. Mt 28:20).
The �breaking of bread��as the Eucharist was called in earliest times�has always been at the centre of the Church's life. Through it Christ makes present within time the mystery of his death and resurrection. In it he is received in person as the �living bread come down from heaven� (Jn 6:51), and with him we receive the pledge of eternal life and a foretaste of the eternal banquet of the heavenly Jerusalem.
�Abide in me, and I in you� (Jn 15:4)
When the disciples on the way to Emmaus asked Jesus to stay �with� them, he responded by giving them a much greater gift: through the Sacrament of the Eucharist he found a way to stay �in� them. Receiving the Eucharist means entering into a profound communion with Jesus. �Abide in me, and I in you� (Jn 15:4). This relationship of profound and mutual �abiding� enables us to have a certain foretaste of heaven on earth. Is this not the greatest of human yearnings? Is this not what God had in mind when he brought about in history his plan of salvation? God has placed in human hearts a �hunger� for his word (cf. Am 8:11), a hunger which will be satisfied only by full union with him. Eucharistic communion was given so that we might be �sated� with God here on earth, in expectation of our complete fulfilment in heaven.
This special closeness which comes about in Eucharistic �communion� cannot be adequately understood or fully experienced apart from ecclesial communion� The Church is the Body of Christ: we walk �with Christ� to the extent that we are in relationship �with his body�. Christ provided for the creation and growth of this unity by the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. And he himself constantly builds it up by his Eucharistic presence. It is the one Eucharistic bread which makes us one body. As the Apostle Paul states: �Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread� (1Cor 10:17). In the mystery of the Eucharist Jesus builds up the Church as a communion, in accordance with the supreme model evoked in his priestly prayer: �Even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me� (Jn 17:21)...
�The two disciples of Emmaus, upon recognizing the Lord, �set out immediately� (cf. Lk 24:33), in order to report what they had seen and heard. Once we have truly met the Risen One by partaking of his body and blood, we cannot keep to ourselves the joy we have experienced. The encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony and evangelization. I wished to emphasize this in my homily announcing the Year of the Eucharist, based on the words of Saint Paul: �As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes� (1 Cor 11:26). The Apostle closely relates meal and proclamation: entering into communion with Christ in the memorial of his Pasch also means sensing the duty to be a missionary of the event made present in that rite�
�The Eucharist not only provides the interior strength needed for this mission, but is also�in some sense�its plan. For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture. For this to happen, each member of the faithful must assimilate, through personal and communal meditation, the values which the Eucharist expresses, the attitudes it inspires, the resolutions to which it gives rise�
�One fundamental element of this plan is found in the very meaning of the word �Eucharist�: thanksgiving. In Jesus, in his sacrifice, in his unconditional �yes� to the will of the Father, is contained the �yes�, the �thank you� and the �amen� of all humanity. The Church is called to remind men and women of this great truth. This is especially urgent in the context of our secularized culture, characterized as it is by a forgetfulness of God and a vain pursuit of human self-sufficiency. Incarnating the Eucharistic �plan� in daily life, wherever people live and work�in families, schools, the workplace, in all of life's settings�means bearing witness that human reality cannot be justified without reference to the Creator: �Without the Creator the creature would disappear�. This transcendent point of reference, which commits us constantly to give thanks for all that we have and are�in other words, to a �Eucharistic� attitude�in no way detracts from the legitimate autonomy of earthly realities, but grounds that autonomy more firmly by setting it within its proper limits�
�We have before us the example of the Saints, who in the Eucharist found nourishment on their journey towards perfection. How many times did they shed tears of profound emotion in the presence of this great mystery, or experience hours of inexpressible �spousal� joy before the sacrament of the altar! May we be helped above all by the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose whole life incarnated the meaning of the Eucharist. �The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery�. The Eucharistic Bread which we receive is the spotless flesh of her Son: Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine. In this Year of grace, sustained by Mary, may the Church discover new enthusiasm for her mission and come to acknowledge ever more fully that the Eucharist is the source and summit of her entire life.