With the words "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Lk 22:15), Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world.
Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love otherwise, even as faith, it is dead.
With the Eucharist, the Church is born. All of us eat the one bread and receive the one body of the Lord; this means that he opens each of us up to something above and beyond us. He makes all of us one. The Eucharist is the mystery of the profound closeness and communion of each individual with the Lord and, at the same time, of visible union between all.
Saint Luke has preserved for us one concrete element of Jesus' prayer for unity: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:31).
All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master.
"I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you". Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe. Amen.
The above are extracts from Benedict XVI's homily for Holy Thursday, 21 April 2011, in the Basilica of St John Lateran.