Saturday, November 12, 2011

The treasures of Scripture in the Mass (#4 Homily on new translation)

We continue to look at the new translation of the Mass,
which we will start using in full in just two weeks.
Once again, I’d invite you to take out the red booklets in your pews
as we look at some of the prayers, and see how they have changed, and why.

Take a look at page one—where it says “Penitential Act”—
you’ll see the prayer we call the Confiteor.

How does it change?

The translators restored, to the English version of this prayer,
a line that was always in the Latin: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa;
in English, that translates,
“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”

As Mass prayers go, this is relatively new—only 900 years old!

You might recall that our Lord told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector,
praying in the temple.

The Pharisee was proud of his spiritual accomplishments;
but the tax collector “stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”
But remember it was the tax collector who went home justified,
because he humbled himself.
I think part of the reason this prayer includes that very gesture,
of striking our own chest, is to help us remember the Lord’s words.

You might wonder why Mass begins with an act of penance—
either this, or one of the others.

The reason is because when we enter the Mass,
we’re entering spiritually into the Holy of Holies—
the true sacrifice of the Lord himself, which he offers for us.
The Mass makes no sense unless we recognize our need for salvation.

Let me highlight another change in the prayers,
which you’ll find on pages 14 and 15.

First, look at what the priest says—it changes a little:

“Behold, the Lamb of God”…this is when the priest holds up the Body and Blood.
The Host—the Lamb of Sacrifice—has been broken.
This is what John the Baptist said when Jesus came to be baptized:
behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
“Behold” is a good word: because it means to hold in ones gaze—
we don’t just glance at the Lamb,
we fix our gaze on him, especially in that he died for us.

Notice the response we all say together will change:

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

That, too, is a Scripture passage.
Recall when the Roman soldier asked Jesus to come and heal his servant,
these are his words.
But now we ask not that a servant be healed, but that our soul be healed.

Again, it makes crystal clear why we need the Eucharist:
to heal our sinfulness in anticipation of heaven.

As you can see, the revised translation is bringing back
to the surface the Scriptural images that are in the Latin,
but which were not so clear in the English we’ve been used to.

You’ll hear the same thing in the prayers the priest will say,
such as the Eucharistic Prayer, or in other prayers the priest uses.

One of the things the Second Vatican Council wanted to happen
was to enable all of us to have more of the treasures of Scripture
shared with us more through the Mass.
One way to do that was to have more Scripture read at Mass;
but having the prayers of Mass translated into English in this way,
so we can more easily recognize those Scriptural images, helps as well.

The Gospel today talks about the Lord’s servants being given “talents.”

Remember, by “talent” the Gospel doesn’t mean our abilities,
such as singing or painting;
in the Lord’s time, a “talent” was a unit of weight,
and when applied to gold or silver, it meant an amount of money.
A talent was approximately 57 pounds—in silver coins,
that is the equivalent of nine years of wages!
Thus, five talents would be 45 years of earnings, a huge amount.

So this isn’t even about money either; instead its about spiritual wealth:
the supernatural gifts God gives us.
The point is, God gives us his supernatural help very generously.

What are these supernatural riches?
Speaking broadly, they are all the graces God gives us, in the Holy Spirit,
to seek him, to be forgiven, to be changed, and to be kept close to him.

As in the Gospel passage, the more we share God’s riches,
we don’t lose—we gain. We grow richer.
The only one who ends up with nothing
is the one who tries to hoard his treasure, rather than put it to use.

We’ve been talking about the details of the Mass—
which is our greatest treasure.
We “invest” that treasure in other people—
by helping them experience it.
Maybe during this Mass, you might think—and pray for—
those people you want to invite to come, next week?

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