In a world of "whatever"

Tom Bartolomeo
10th Sunday Ordinary C 2013c
Kings 17: 17-24; Psalm 30;
Galatians 1: 11-19; Luke 7: 11-17
Reproduced with Permission

"Whatever." How many times have we heard or said, "whatever". Play it safe. Go along , get along, and do "whatever". So much of our conduct is influenced by the conduct of others. Has our sense of reverence for God and for each other fallen into such indifference or "whatever"? There are, we should know, two parts to reverence, one, the person or occasion which is revered and ,two, the reverence or irreverence one reveals about himself including his or her comportment in church and at Mass. Jesus on one occasion also spoke about such irreverence in the parable of a king whose subjects had turned down his invitation to his son's wedding, how the king had to resort to inviting strangers to his son's wedding. One stranger, however, who accepted the invitation the king, we are told, the king and I am quoting Jesus, "threw him outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, because of his lack of reverence in his clothing. "For many are invited, but few are chosen," Jesus said. (Matthew 22, 1-14). The stranger was ejected for his care-lessness in his attire and demeanor. How much our actions speak louder than our pretenses.

Personal opinion should not be the basis of reverence for God or anyone or anything else. Reverence speaks more to our personal values than to anything else. Our culture has, however, elevated personal opinion to the status of a personal right. But opinion by definition is uncertain and changeable -- no better than a weather prediction and cannot be compared to the truth. When Jesus told Pilate that he came as a "witness to the truth", Pilate like so many today obstinately clung to his prejudices telling Jesus, "Am I a Jew?" and then asked Jesus, "What is truth?" (cf. John 18,28). How often does truth give way to convenience and pride? Some people's minds are so made up they do not want to be distracted by the truth. But opinion can not change what is good or bad, right or wrong, no matter how many people follow the crowd. In John Milton's poem, "Paradise Lost" Satan choose the bad, the wrong and the ugly out of pride. He said he'd rather "reign in Hell than serve in Heaven". I hope to believe, my opinion mind you, that much of the lack of reverence in the world and sadly in the church at Mass is borne of ignorance and confusion.

The truth is the Mass did not spring out of thin air. The "First Eucharistic Prayer" of the Mass reveres the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins, recalling the sacrifice of "Abel the just", the son of Adam and Eve, who was murdered by his brother Cain because Abel revered God and Cain did not. Then "the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith," who nearly sacrificed his only son, Isaac, at God's prompting before God recanted his command, and, finally, "the offering of your high priest Melchizedek who shared with Abraham bread and wine as a signs of Abraham's reverence for God -- "the creator of heaven and earth", he said, who alone among the tribes revered the one true God. (Genesis 18, 14-20). From the tribes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, the leader of God' people out of slavery, to David, the king of Israel and lastly "in the fullness of time" to Jesus Christ came redemption for all the people of God for all time was in Christ's life, death and resurrection "we celebrate . . . the gifts [God] has given us . . . the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation. In the beginning the new people of God were signed with the blood of a lamb and ate their final meal of lamb before escaping their captivity in Egypt while the angel of death took the lives of all the first born of Egypt and released God's chosen people from bondage. The night before their escape the angel of death "passed over" the people of God whose homes were marked with blood of the lamb where they celebrated the Passover meal -- the ancient sign of our salvation by Jesus, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," we say, "have mercy on us." (cf. Exodus 12). These words we repeat before sharing the Eucharistic meal of Christ's body and blood in the signs of bread and wine.

Before their time from Abel to David there was no lasting covenant with God only temporary covenants with mortal men, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and King David. Each of their successive covenants died with them. Only God's covenant with his eternal Son became the new and everlasting covenant which the Mass commemorates. And none of this was our doing. Our salvation is simply a gift we can not earn on our own. We come to Mass in reverence as undeserving beneficiaries, and through Christ's friendship receive God's life, grace and favor. "At the Savior's command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say, Our Father . . . ." As one of his ordained priests and intermediary I "Do this in [his] memory". Christ instituted the Mass at the last supper with his Apostles and priests to be finished (Christ's final words from the cross) the following day with his actual sacrifice on Calvary with only two faithful witnesses standing by, Mary his Mother and his Apostle John. Even they were not necessary for the action of Father and Son in Jesus's sacrifice. We are simply carrying out his command "in [his] memory" that we not forget whom we revere for loving and saving us. Finally, as in the ancient Passover meal we consume his body and body for our life's journey as we are sent after each Mass, "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" just as Jesus had told his disciples after his resurrection, "As the Father has sent me I send you." (John 20, 21). We should reflect long and hard on this final command of the Mass. Where are we going after Mass and how are we going to "announce the Gospel of the Lord" to the world?

At Mass we are essentially witnesses to the Gospel through which we are saved and others through us. This truth should wholely inform our comportment at Mass. Our openness to union with the priest in the person of the Christ who offers himself to the Father should motivate us in the prayer we hear, that "we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life, and may praise and glorify you through your Son Jesus Christ". (Eucharistic Prayer II). " At no place in the Mass should this be more demonstrable than your dependance on Christ's blessing given by the priest for Christ when he says, "The peace of the Lord be with you always" and you respond iby extending the peace of Christ to one other. It is our solemn preparation for the reception of the body and blood of Christ when we will say, "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us" and then profess, "Lord I am not worthy that you should come unto my roof". It not a break in the Mass for hand waving and reaching across pews and down the aisles. These principles of reverence apply to every word, every gesture and every action of the Mass. If you are unsure take your cue from me. Clearly, that also includes our silent gathering before Mass, arriving on time and quietly leaving Church - certainly not forming groups of conversation in the pews and aisles after Mass. The Mass and church is never, never, about our interpersonal relations, about us, but about our worship of God. Period. When the priest prayers with his hands extended he stands in the person of Christ communing with the Father for all of us as the priests of the Old Testament did, the one intermediary with God are God instructed Moses. Our of some misguided notion many people at the Our Father extend their hands or join their hands signaling what, that we separately pray the Our Father? The Mass, again, is principally the relationship of the Son of God, Christ, with his Father. Were we necessary for the Mass than the Mass would not be valid without your presence. All that was required for the first Mass on Calvary was Jesus as priest and sacrificial offering to the Father. The sacred liturgy of the Mass established by God should not be confused with our personal devotions, good as they may be, they are not the source of his grace. Christ's death and resurrection is the source of all grace in the corporal and mystical body of the Church. The liturgy of the Mass, the work of our salvation, was borne solely by Christ. The form of the liturgy of the Mass, commanded by Jesus, "Do this in memory of me" was delegated to his Church. "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven", he told his first bishops. (Matthew 16, 19). The liturgy of the Mass is formed in two parts, one, the liturgy of the Word in Sacred Scripture and, two, the liturgy of the Sacrifice.

Finally, the Mass is only the beginning of our worship of God with the words of dismissal: "Go forth. The Mass is ended" or "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" all of which is bound up in the first three Commandments, "I am the Lord, thy God . . . Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain . . . and Keep Holy the Sabbath."