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Can you hear God in the Mass?

If you have seen Bishop Robert Barron on YouTube or the “Catholicism” series, you know how excellent he is. He provides insightful and entertaining short videos that span many topics related to God, the culture, and the world. We are showing one of his videos at Community Sunday this weekend – “Bishop Barron on the Real Presence of the Jesus in the Eucharist”. You can find it on our website. It is a follow-up to October’s video of an Eucharistic miracle which was popular among parishioners and family members. We are hoping that you will send the link of the November video from our parish website to your families like you did so well with the October video.

Here is a penetrating article by Bishop Barron about the Mass. Enjoy!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

 

“Silence and the meaning of the Mass”

Bishop Robert Barron

http://www.catholicworldreport.com.

Robert Cardinal Sarah’s recent book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise explores a number of themes both theological and spiritual, all centering around the unhappy role that noise has come to play in our culture and more specifically in the Church. His observations are most trenchant in regard to the liturgy, which should come as no great surprise, given his role as head of the Vatican Congregation devoted to liturgy and sacraments. As I read the sections of his book dealing with the importance of silence during Mass, I often found myself nodding vigorously.

I came of age in the period immediately following the Second Vatican Council, when an enormous stress was placed, quite legitimately, on the conciliar call for “full, conscious, and active participation” in the Mass. That famous phrase, derived from the ground-breaking work of the theologians of the liturgical movement of the early and mid-twentieth century, was a clarion call to the laity to assume their rightful role as real actors in the liturgy and not mere spectators. But in its practical application this came too often to imply that the laity must be continually stimulated into action during the Mass: processing, standing, singing, responding, clapping, etc. It was as though the directors and leaders of the liturgy felt they must be constantly grabbing the congregation by the shoulders and shaking them into conscious participation.

Silence, accordingly, tended to be construed as the enemy, for it would lull the people into inattention and boredom. Hardly anyone in the post-conciliar liturgical establishment appreciated that silence could be a sign of heightened, even enraptured, attention on the part of the congregation, a deeply contemplative entry into the mystery of the Mass. And what several decades of this in turn has produced, especially among the young today, is the impression that the Mass is a sort of religiously-themed jamboree, during which our fellowship is celebrated and at which lots and lots of sound is indispensable. I will confess that during many years as a priest, and now as a bishop, I have often wondered whether our hyper-stimulated congregations know exactly what they are participating in. They know that they are active, but active precisely in what?

The Mass is the act by which the Son of God, in union with his mystical body, turns toward the Father in worship. Through our full, conscious, and active participation in this right praise, we become more rightly ordered, more completely configured to Christ and more thoroughly directed toward the Father. We do indeed experience heightened fellowship with one another during the Mass, but this is because we are realizing, not so much our mutual affection, but our common love of a transcendent third, to use Aristotle’s language.

In this regard, one of the most illuminating rubrics under which to read the Mass is that of call and response: Christ the head, through the priest who is acting in Christ’s person, calls out to the members of his mystical body, and they respond, somewhat in the manner of the lovers in the Song of Songs. At the very commencement of the liturgy, the priest (again, operating not in his own name but in persona Christi) says, “The Lord be with you,” and the people respond, “and with your spirit.” The spirit in question here is the power of Christ dwelling in the priest through the sacrament of Holy Orders. This exchange continues throughout the Mass, Head and members conversing with one another and solidifying their communion. Jesus speaks his Word in the Old Testament readings and in the Pauline epistles, and the members of his body sing back to him in the responsorial psalm; Jesus announces himself in the Gospel, and the people chant back, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ;” Jesus breaks open the Word through the preaching of the priest, and the people respond with the Creed, a signal of their faith.

Having prepared the gifts (presented by the people), the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Father almighty.” This line is of great significance, for it signals the moment when Christ and the members of his body are turning toward the Father in order to perform an act of sacrifice and thanksgiving. How beautifully the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer expresses this dynamic: “Lift up your hearts!” says Christ to his people; they respond, “We lift them up to the Lord,” and then Jesus, through his priest, says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” What follows is the magnificent Eucharistic Prayer, directed toward the Father and prayed by Head and members together, the latter’s many sacrifices—small and large—subsumed into the former’s definitive sacrifice on the cross. At the conclusion of the liturgy, Christ sends his mystical body, now more perfectly ordered to the Father, back into the world to effect its transformation.

Cardinal Sarah imitates his master Joseph Ratzinger in insisting that silence rightly asserts itself throughout this entire process. The silence of gathering, recollecting, listening, praying, offering, etc. There is plenty of sound in the Mass, but unless silence is cultivated therein as well, we can easily lose sight of what we are doing in this most sublime of prayers.

Body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ

I hope that those of you who participated in the Revival enjoyed it thoroughly. My favorite part was when the spectacular revivalist talked about the Eucharist on Tuesday night. He actually used the phrase “center of our life”. I was hooting and hollering! One of the priests who knows about my C.O.O.L. pamphlet on the Eucharist jokingly said to me, “did he get that from you?” Here is the section of the pamphlet that specifically focuses on the Eucharist as the center of our lives (C.O.O.L.):

Think of or even make a list of 10 people, places or things that are most important to you. Family members, boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, the beach, sentimental items, other valuable possessions, money, clothes, DVDs, and car might top your list. Now, take a few minutes (or longer), and rank these items 1-10 in importance to you (1 is most important).

Why are these things most important to you? What do you find or receive in each one? Most likely, you come in contact with them regularly, maybe even daily. If it is a person, what is it about her that you find attractive? What are you looking for from her? How often do you talk with or see him? What do you experience in his presence? If it is a thing, why do you use it? What does it give you? How often do you use it? If it is a place, why is it so special? The people or things that are most important to us say a lot about who we are.

Ultimately, there is one thing we are all looking for: happiness. We want to be truly happy each day and have chosen these people or things to get us there. Some of them help us to find happiness, and some of them don’t. There are some things in our lives that are not good for us, but we still go to them regularly. For example, an alcoholic might have listed bourbon as one of his 10 things because it takes him away from his problems. While it may bring him temporary pleasure, it doesn’t bring him true happiness.

Now, if he didn’t make your top ten list, please add God as a late entry. Specifically, write “the Eucharist.” Take a moment and compare Jesus Christ to all of the items on your list. Jesus died for you. The Eucharist is a living memorial of what Jesus did for you 2000 years ago on the Cross, and what he does for you every day. He gives you his life. He gives you love. He gives you true happiness. No other person, place, or thing can give you what the Eucharist gives you.

The Eucharist is c.o.o.l. (center of our lives). It is truly the flesh and blood of him who created us and saved us. He is as alive in the Eucharist as you and I are alive. He wants to be number one on your list. He is always there for you. He made you. He knows everything about you. Everything you’re going through. Every pain, struggle, joy, stress, disappointment, fear, success, hope, and love you’re experiencing. He wants to experience them with you. He wants you to experience them with him. He wants to be a very real part of your life. He is waiting for you in the Eucharist.

There are so many things that Fr. Roy joyfully proclaimed about the Eucharist that I hope are deeply embedded in your minds and hearts:

  • In Holy Mass and especially in the Consecration, the priest steps into not only the shoes of Christ, but his whole person! This is the meaning of in persona Christi. The priest acts in the person of Christ.
  • The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary. (It’s not that Jesus dies over and over again – Scripture says he died “once and for all”. Rather, his sacrifice on the Cross is re-presented by the power of the Holy Spirit in the form of bread and wine. And, it’s His same Body and Blood, as He says in John 6:51, the only difference being that it’s His risen Body and Blood.)
  • Mass is also a re-presentation of the Last Supper in that we hear the words Jesus said and honor his command to “do this in memory of me”.
  • Mass is a banquet and a meal as well, centered on the Bread of Life which I think Fr Roy called “the greatest food in the world”.
  • The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Amen!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

The Resurrection of the Lord

On behalf of our entire staff at Assumption, I wish you and your family a blessed Easter! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Parish Launches Street Evangelization

Recently, we embarked on our maiden voyage into the waters of street evangelization. It was an exciting and fruitful two hours that we spent at Congress Heights metro station, talking with people about faith and distributing materials like rosaries and miraculous medals. We personally invited over fifty people to our church especially for Holy Week liturgies. It was all good!

Unbelievers

Well, maybe not all good. One man told me he was a Methodist, but didn’t celebrate Easter because he didn’t believe in the Resurrection. He stated that “thousands of people saw Jesus die but only three saw him rise. That should tell you something.” I tried to tell him that that number rose to 12 and then 500 as Scripture says. It has grown to millions and billions in the past two thousand years. He gave some other reasons why he doesn’t believe, but they were given in anger and profanity. It seemed that his problem was more personal than spiritual actually.

What would you say?

Nevertheless, if you were evangelizing (sharing the Good News) with someone on the street, how would you reply if they said they didn’t believe in the Resurrection? You can give the traditional points of evidence from Scripture – empty tomb, burial cloths and garments, belief and witness of the Apostles and disciples. I told the man that the witness of the Apostles is huge. All but one of the eleven gave their lives because they believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and died as martyrs for the faith.

Tell your story

But really, the best way to evangelize is through personal experience. If I had had more time with the man, I would have talked about knowing the risen Christ, and having a relationship with him today. If we speak again, I will tell him about all of the evidence at Assumption that Christ is risen.

First and foremost, it would be the joy of our parishioners. You all believe that Christ is risen, that life triumphs over death, that we all have the hope of eternal life, and you show it! Your joy would quickly melt away any sadness or anger of his or others.

It all starts at Mass

There are so many more ways that our parish shows its faith in the Resurrection. As with everything, this starts at Mass. We kneel before the risen Christ in the Eucharist and whisper the words of St Thomas, “my Lord and my God” (btw, Mass attendance is up). Think specifically about healing Masses, though. You come forward to receive blessings for healing with the faith that Christ will bring healing to your wounds, peace to your burdens, and joy to your sadness. It’s really the faith that Christ has power over all things; if he can overcome death, he can overcome anything in your life!

One visit to the Pope Francis Outreach Center reveals the faith in the risen Christ of this parish. You firmly believe that Christ lives in the poor (cf. Mt 25), and you feed him accordingly. This and so many other aspects of your witness to the Resurrection are greatly in sync with what Pope Francis has said:

“The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.”

May we experience the triumphs of our risen Lord and be a witness of them to others, and

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

Faith is a Gift

Last week, I had a fascinating conversation with a Jewish man who married a Catholic woman with whom I’m friends. They have two kids who are in their early teens and have been raised Catholic. It was very intriguing to hear him speak about the Catholic faith because he has read and discussed much about it. I said to him a few times that he knows more than most Catholics! He knows the teachings and seems open to believing, but is more skeptical and doubtful about it all right now.

During our brief chat, he raised questions about the Mass – why do we confess sin in the beginning of Mass, why do we bring money up to the altar in the middle of Mass, and how can transubstantiation actually occur. I didn’t give too many answers because we were at a party and it was more of a casual setting. And, I was simply marveling at his questions!

A question with a question

You could say that I attempted to answer his last question with a question. I asked him about his kids, and if they believe in transubstantiation (i.e., the bread and wine change substances into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Consecration during Holy Mass) because they are both so learned about the Catholic faith and discuss it regularly. He said that his son believes wholeheartedly, probably because of his devout Catholic grandparents. His daughter, however, is more skeptical, probably taking after her father. I thought to myself that that is fine – if the teaching on the Eucharist has reached the ears of these teens (and their Jewish father), then the seed has been planted and it will ultimately bear fruit. The problem usually is that people don’t hear the teaching. “Whoever hears the truth, hears my voice” (Jn 18:37).

I walked away from the conversation realizing, yet again, that faith is a gift. In today’s Gospel, the Apostles say to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Lk 17:5). They recognize that He is the source of faith in each of them. He is the source of faith in each of us. Just like He is the giver of life, He is the giver of faith. We did nothing to earn the gift of life; so, too, we did nothing to earn the gift of faith at Baptism. And, I truly believe that just as God offers life to every human being, He offers the gift of faith to every human being. The question is, will each person use the gift? Will each of us ask the Lord in our own way – whether in word like the Apostles or in deed like receiving the Eucharist at Mass – to increase our faith.

Our faith at Baptism is like the size of the mustard seed which is mentioned by the Lord in this Gospel as well. God’s Grace helps the tiny faith of the baptized person to grow mainly through the sacraments, much like the Lord mentions in Mark 4: “it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches” (v.32).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that faith is a gift and a human act:

When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood,’ but from “my Father who is in heaven.”

Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.

…believing is an authentically human act…In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”  (Paragraphs 153-155).

I will pray that God will infuse the gift of Christian faith in my Jewish friend, and that he will cooperate with grace by assenting to the truth. I will keep praying that this continues to happen with all of us, and that the Lord will increase our faith.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Heaven, it’s all good

26th Sunday (Children’s Mass)

Heaven
     What’s your pic of heaven
     It’s all good!
     How do we get there?
Righteousness
     Doing what is right / good
     Living for others and not yourself
Devotion
     Sunday Mass / Eucharist

 

Store Up Treasure in Heaven

8th Sunday

How do we spend our free time?
Prayer?  Service?

Heavenly things or earthly?
Building up or going around?
True leisure = renewal
Too much = idolatry
Mass / Eucharist – greatest way to become rich in what matters to God