Sunday, March 04, 2018

Deeper into Mass, deeper into Christ (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, when God’s People arrive at Mt. Sinai, 
it is like a cresting wave.
God has acted with power to bring his people from slavery,
And he brings them to his mountain to form a covenant.

Then with the Gospel, another cresting wave.
Jesus Christ has been at work, healing, teaching, 
and he has been steadily moving toward Jerusalem.

Now he arrives; he enters the temple. And “whoosh!” 
Like a tidal wave, he washes it clean.

And as we continue to look at the Mass each week during Lent, 
I want to suggest that there is a "wave" 
that sweeps us forward during the Mass as well.*

Also, these two readings are like book-ends.
At Mt. Sinai, Old Testament temple worship begins. 
The Ten Commandments were a part of that.
And, by the way, notice the emphasis 
in this longer version of the Commandments on worshipping God rightly: 
no other gods, and do not forget the Sabbath.

Later, what God shared with Moses on the mountain for 40 days 
will guide the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Fast forward about 1400 years, and Jesus – the Lord himself! – 
comes to the temple. He drives out the money changers. 
He is doing more than cleansing the temple.

He has come to reveal that there is a new temple – 
and that’s the temple he refers to being “destroyed” and raised up.
That Temple is he himself.

As you know, as we go through Lent, we’re also going through the Mass.
I’ve said this before: if you think your part of Mass 
doesn’t involve effort and work, you are mistaken. 
God led the people to Sinai; but they didn’t just ride along.

People realize the priest’s part involve work and effort. 
But sometimes we think, “I can just sit back.” No, sorry. 
You are not a spectator. If you are baptized, you are part of Christ, 
and therefore you are part of what happens in Holy Mass.

By the way, this is why children should come to Mass, 
as early as possible. 
I know what people say, that they are – and I quote – 
too young “to get anything out of Mass.”
But I’m sorry, that’s wrong.
That makes the mistake of thinking of Mass on a worldly level.

The main thing you and I “get” from Mass is God himself.
Not words; not ideas and concepts. 
Those things happen, but they are not the main thing.

If we take that view, that it’s all about “understanding,”
then that makes it all about our brains;
And if you think it through, it ultimately means
That we’re saying that Holy Mass is all a human action, 
and that God doesn’t do anything! 

You don’t really believe that, do you?

Remember: God – not us – is the primary one acting in the Mass.
The main thing you and I do is to cooperate with God the Holy Spirit;
He draws us into the Mass, 
and makes wonderful things happen in our presence, for our sake.

So – to connect back to what Deacon Meyer said last week – 
You and I can – by the right kind of preparation for Mass,
Allow God to draw us into the Scriptures that are spoken to us.

Notice the progression as the readings are read. We end up standing. 
That is because we are hearing the Gospel, Jesus’ own words.
It’s as if we are in the temple when Jesus walks in.
By the way, this is why we sometimes use a special Gospel Book, 
and we have a procession with it, with incense, to the altar.
This represents Jesus, as it were, coming in to speak to us.

The larger idea is that as we progress through Mass,
You and I are being drawn closer, and deeper, into Christ.
It’s like passing through a series of gates, further and further in.

Notice: we literally do that when you and I come to church.
We first come onto the property; then through the outer door – 
that puts us in the vestibule. 
Then an inner door, bringing us where you are now.

Although there’s no door here at the step – 
and we don’t all physically come into the sanctuary here – 
still, that’s where the flow of the Mass brings us:
to this inner sanctum; to the altar;
to the place where Christ’s presence among us is unveiled further.

What I’ll say next will either shock you or make you laugh, but:
If we were really doing this right, there would be no pews!
You heard me right: no pews; no place to sit.

As a matter of history, Catholic churches didn’t have pews 

until a few hundred years ago.
The problem with pews is that they turn you into a spectator. 
But you aren’t a spectator.  You are part of this.
And, no, we’re not removing the pews, 
so please don’t write the Archbishop about that.* 

The main thing I want to emphasize 
is that just as we saw in the readings,
there is a kind of crescendo at this point of the Mass. 

We’ve received the Scripture readings and the homily.
Now you and I stand again, and what follows?
Then we recite the Creed. This is a very special prayer. 
In fact, it is like a hymn. It can be sung. 
Notice it is singular: “I believe in one God.”
That’s both because it’s personal for each of us; but more than that, 
it’s an act of the whole Body, as one. “We” become “I.”

Watch, you’ll see I turn toward the Lord at this point.
I do that to signal that we don’t recite this to each other.
Rather, it is a song of praise and an act of faith, 
directed to the Holy Trinity, who is step by step, 
becoming more tangibly present for us in the Mass.
It is a fitting summation of all that has happened before,
and it is a prelude to what is about to happen on the altar.

* I made these changes after the 5 pm Mass.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. The Mass is the highlight of my week.

Also I wish your deacon would post his messages on your blog too.