As you know, we’re doing a series of homilies
the next few weeks on the new translation of the Mass.
If you pick up the red booklets in your pews,
we can take a look at one of the changes
that everyone will notice—
and which we may stumble over at first.
It’s right on page 1. The priest says, “The Lord be with you”;
and the people respond: “And with your spirit.”
Why the change? Well, there’s a lot to this.
First, of course, this is straight from the Latin,
which some of you remember:
Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo.
“And with your spirit.”
OK, but why did they say this in Latin?
It comes from the early church.
We aren’t sure where they got it;
however, it is a phrase that St. Paul uses several times
in the New Testament.
For example, in his second letter to St. Timothy,
he said: “The Lord be with your spirit.”
We do know what they thought it meant.
According to St. John Chrysostom,
this acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit
overshadowing the whole assembly—
and acting in a special way in the priest.
The same dialogue happens again when the priest approaches the altar—
you’ll see that on page 10 of these booklets.
And here’s what St. John said about that:
when the priest “stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice…
he does not touch” what lies on the altar
“before wishing you the grace of our Lord,
and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.'”
See that? The idea being
that only with the Holy Spirit does any of this have meaning—
and that’s exactly right.
Of course, the priest and people exchange this greeting once more,
at the end of Mass, before the blessing:
making the point that it is Christ himself who blesses you.
Now let’s connect this to what our Lord said in the Gospel.
But first I have to explain what this Gospel is NOT about.
It’s not about whether a title is good or bad.
Jesus did not object to calling your teacher, “teacher”;
he didn’t object to calling your dad—or your priest—“father.”
No, the Lord is telling us not to focus on the human being;
and not to accept that focus.
And that applies to the Mass.
Let’s look at one more change that goes along with this.
On page 9, right in the middle,
you’ll see what the priest says to you,
right after the bread and wine come to the altar.
The change is that the priest will say,
“my sacrifice and yours”—instead of “our” sacrifice.
Again, why the change?
It makes the point once more:
the priest approaches the altar not on his own steam,
but because he was ordained
to be a priest for Christ and for you.
When the priest says, “my” sacrifice, it reflects this.
And because being a priest means
being united to Christ in a particular way,
it is Jesus himself who says, “my sacrifice.”
Then the priest says, “your” sacrifice.
It’s what our Lord told us about the Cross.
He took up the Cross in a unique way—
dying for us so we could live forever.
But then he says to us: “take up your cross.”
He invites us to bring all our troubles,
our trials, yes even things very unworthy—
but when we give them to him,
he will make them of infinite value!
We often talk about “participation” in Mass,
but there is sometimes a misunderstanding.
Sometimes we talk as though
what really counts is whether we’re doing something:
singing, reading, bringing the gifts forward, and so forth.
As good as these things are,
they don’t determine whether people are truly “participating.”
Folks who sit silently—but intently—are surely participating too.
They may even be participating better than any of us.
Who can say?
Because the key participation is right here in this prayer:
joining our hearts and lives—warts and all—in the sacrifice;
offering them as our personal sacrifice.
That moment of the Mass—which will happen shortly—
is an excellent time to do just that:
in prayer, lay on the altar all the cares and troubles,
all the people you pray for, all the sins that trip you up.
Don’t be afraid of offering anything as part of your sacrifice. Jesus takes it all!