Monday, January 27, 2014

Homily - "Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Last week, I gave a talk to the RCIA group (those who are preparing to become Catholic) about the Mass, and went through the parts of the Mass.  I thought it would be good to do that in a homily.  I took another look at today's readings and saw that some of the language describes what happens at Mass.  I'll start with the Gospel.  Jesus says, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand".  It's one of the first things he says in Matthew's Gospel.  It's one of the first things we say at Mass.  The priest begins Mass by greeting the congregation and then leading the Penitential Rite.  Here we acknowledge our place in the presence of God: that we are sinners.  We need to repent, for Mass is at hand.  Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Then, we sing the Gloria..."Glory to God". We are filled with "abundant joy" and "great rejoicing", as we hear through the prophet Isaiah.  We sing hymns at Mass that are sung in Heaven- "Glory to God in the highest", "Holy, Holy, Holy", etc.  This is what the Book of Revelation tells us.

Then, we celebrate the Liturgy of the Word.  Mass is made up primarily of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  We need to be present for both parts to have attended.  If someone arrives after the Gospel on Sunday, they need to find another Mass to fulfill the Sunday obligation.  

St. Paul writes in the second reading that Christ sent him to "preach the Gospel ".  The primary task of a priest is to teach.  The homily is supposed to teach what God is saying through the readings. The first reading comes from the Old Testament; the second comes from a New Testament letter; the third reading is from one of the four Gospels.  The first reading and the Gospel are always related; the second isn’t always related, and is often continuous from prior weeks.  Our job is to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the readings at this point in our lives... to hear at least one word or phrase.   The theme might be found in the Responsorial Psalm which is our response to God. We were taught in the seminary that the homily is the bridge between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  I try in every homily to link the readings to the Eucharist.

We sit during the readings to receive God's Word. Sitting is the most receptive position.  We stand for the Gospel and prayers to show more reverence.  Kneeling is the most reverent gesture, so we do that during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

After the homily, we profess our faith during the Creed.  We should think about the words we say...about what we believe and about who God is.  People have given their lives, literally, over the centuries for these words.  We conclude the Liturgy of the Word with the Prayer of the Faithful in which we offer prayers to the Father for the world.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist has many parts and descriptions.  It is called an offering; we offer to God our humble gifts of bread and wine as well as our monetary offerings.  He takes them, blesses them, and makes them holy.

It is called a memorial; we remember how God has saved us in Christ.  Jesus says "do this in memory of me", and when the priest does, Jesus becomes truly present on the altar through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The consecration / transubstantiation occurs when the priest says the words of Institution: "this is my body "...  "this is the chalice of my blood".  At that point, it is no longer bread or wine; it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

It is also a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross...the act of our salvation.  "The Lord is my light and my salvation".  Christ doesn't die at every Mass; Scripture says that He died "once and for all". His sacrifice on Calvary is re-presented at Mass.  This is the sacrifice that is offered to the Father "for the forgiveness of sins".  We are all witnesses and participants of salvation! If you want to save the world, go to Mass…or invite someone to Mass! The next time someone says to you that Mass is boring, tell them that Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary; I don't think they would think that event was boring.

It is also a banquet. We receive The Lord in Holy Communion.  We are one with Him and with each other..."united in the same mind and in the same purpose".  As individuals, we have community ("communion") with each other at Mass.  Last week, our campus experienced a tragedy when Sean Keefer, a freshman at GW, died. At the memorial service on campus, Sean's family stressed the importance of community.  They said that Sean went to a dark place alone, and urged GW students to never do that alone.  At Mass, we are reminded that we are not alone.  There are others who can help us in our darkness...and be a light.  In Christ, we are never alone.  He is our light.

During Holy Communion, we reflect on the immense treasure we have been given in the Eucharist.  The Mass ends when the priest gives the final blessing and declares, "the Mass is ended". He sends us out into the world as the Father sent him into the world.  Given all that we just experienced in the heavenly liturgy, we shouldn't be in such a hurry to leave.  We should be like the saints who stayed after Mass for a moment or two to give thanks to God for all that they just received: God speaking to them in the Word and coming to them in the Eucharist.  We are the people in darkness who have seen a great light which is Christ through our participation in Holy Mass.


1 comment:

Mary Margaret said...

What a beautiful explanation of the Mass. Thank you!