Sunday, February 18, 2018

Who the Mass is 'for': sinners being saved, i.e., us (Sunday homily)

This is not me. I cribbed this from here. You can see all the vestments
(save the cincture) I describe in my homily, below.
I’m giving my homily over here [at the chair]
because I want to do a little show-and-tell, and this will make it easier. 
Unfortunately, it means I can’t hide my notes! Oh well.

As I mentioned last week, 
During Lent I will try to explain the Mass in each Sunday homily. 
So today, I want to talk about the beginning of Mass.
But I’ll start even before the beginning.
I know people wonder about the vestments,
so let me give a little information about that.

The first thing that goes on is the alb.
It recalls the white robe we receive in baptism.
If needed, I might tie a cloth around my shoulders, called the amice, 
in order to cover up my street clothes.
The point is, everything earthly-minded is left behind.

Then I tie a cincture around my waist – that holds the alb close.
The prayer that goes with that emphasizes self-control and chastity.

This, on my left arm, is called a maniple.
It used to be required in the older Mass, but now it’s optional; 
most priests don’t wear it in the new Mass.
It represents embracing the sweat and toil of following Christ.

Next is the stole. It hangs around the neck. 
Over that goes the Chasuble, which is this top garment. 

For more solemn Masses, I might also wear a biretta. 
Again, this was mandatory in the old Mass, now it’s optional.
So, where do these things come from?
Most of this derives from what was considered formal dress
in Roman society, about 1,800 years ago.

Regardless of where it came from, there is a very good reason 
for the priest to put on special clothes:
It makes clear that when the priest offers Holy Mass, 
it’s not about him. 

The priest sets aside his own person.
Martin Fox doesn’t bring anything special to Mass.
But the priest does. Christ acts through a priest in a unique way.

After the Mass was reformed in 1970, there was a big shift.
And one of the things I’m sure you’ve noticed, is that in many places, 
the personality of the priest moves front and center.

I’m sure a lot of you have seen it: 
For example, right before the Superbowl, 
there was a Philadelphia parish 
where they sang the fight song for the Eagles.

To be fair, for a while, priests were encouraged to do this; 
and most of the time, people eat it up. 
But it’s the wrong thing to do. 
Cheer for our Russia Raiders, go Buckeyes, go Reds –
But they aren’t what Mass is about.

My job isn’t to amuse you! It’s not about me at all.
It’s about turning to Christ.
So: now we’re at the beginning of Mass, what happens?

The priest kisses the altar – again, that’s about Christ.

Then the priest says to everyone: “Let us acknowledge our sins, 
and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

This moment is like about what we just heard in the readings:
It’s about a fresh start.
Noah and his family started over. 
Saint Peter talks about baptism.
Jesus comes out of the desert, and he says, “This is the time…repent!” A fresh start.

Now, let me clear something up. The prayer we say:
“I confess to Almighty God…” – 
that isn’t a substitute for the sacrament of penance.
Some people have that idea: 
that this moment at the beginning of Mass 
means they don’t have to go tell their sins in confession!

Sorry, but, no! The point of this prayer at the beginning of Mass 
is to acknowledge that we are people who need salvation. 
That we are sinners. That’s who the Mass is for.

Moreover, the Mass presupposes that we are, in fact, 
going to confession on a regular basis. 

It is the prayer of people who have answered 
Jesus’ invitation to convert, and are now on the path of conversion.
It’s kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous. 
When you go to a meeting, everyone takes a turn and says, 
“Hi, I’m Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.” 
If you’re not an alcoholic, why are you there?
And if you and I aren’t sinners, why are we here?

After this, we sing “Kyrie Eleison,” 
which is Greek for, “Lord, have mercy.” 
Outside of Lent, we would sing the “Gloria,” 
which includes what the Christmas angels said when Jesus was born.

So, in rapid succession, we admitted we are sinners; 
we asked for mercy, and we praise and thank God for his salvation.
These prayers identify who we are. 
The Mass isn’t about us as individuals. 
It’s about us as one People of God, with the priest leading us.

You and I are carrying out our vocation
to pray for the salvation of the world.
The Holy Mass is a priestly act. That’s why it requires a priest;
And it calls on each of us to carry out our share in Christ’s priesthood, 
which became ours when we were baptized.

So then the priest, speaking for the entire Body of Christ – 
not just those of us present here, mind you, 
but I mean the whole Body of Christ – then says, “Let us pray.”

Stop and think about that. This Mass, or any Mass, anywhere, 
is not really separate from any, or all other Masses.
It’s all one Mass!
All other people taking part in Mass elsewhere, are present with us.
All those who can’t be at Mass, are with us.
All the souls in purgatory; all the redeemed in heaven!
It is all one Mass!

So if you wonder why we do this with dignity and reverence, 
and seriousness, and not messing around, this is why.

We are all together; one voice, one priestly act; 
At the beginning the great prayer, the greatest possible prayer, 
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass of Jesus Christ.

As I said before: the Mass is like Lent.
Lent leads us to the Upper Room, to the Cross, and to Resurrection.
As we proceed through the Mass, we are led to the altar, 
where what Jesus did for us once, he makes real for us here and now.
It looks back to Jerusalem, so long ago;
And it looks forward to heaven, where our hope will be realized.

1 comment:

rcg said...

This is great! I bet lots of people don't know what the various garments are.

The only part of the wonderful homily I will disagree with is where you say, "Sorry, but no!" about the need for confession as a personal act. This nothing to be sorry about! Imagine that *I* went to the doctor and everyone in the waiting room called out his symptoms and illnesses at once. Instead, I get to go to the Doctor and get one-on-one very personal attention and a little discussion about my situation and if I tell all of the symptoms, and take my medicine, I AM HEALED. How good is that? It's enough to make you want to go around telling everybody about it. Of course this darn cold tends to come back. If I watch for it, though, I can fight it off with the help of the medicine I was given and, any time I need to, I can back and get healed again. WOW!