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During his trip to the Holy Land Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Cenacle on Mount Zion, the reputed site of the Upper Room and Last Supper. During his homily, which took place after his visit to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, he said that the room spoke to him of friendship, but also of human faults like pettiness which reawaken "whenever we look at our brother and sister with contempt".
The full homily is below:
It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.
In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30).
To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.
The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.
The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.
The Upper Room reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.
The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.
The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal. We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.
The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.
These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church. From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!