Fourteenth Sunday of the Year – Pastor’s Reflection (July 3, 2016)
Today at Sung Mass, the Cantor will begin the Liturgy with these verses from Psalm 47:
Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of your temple. Your praise, O God, like your name, reaches the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with saving justice.
While he sings it, the priest (and servers) will go to the altar. The text accompanies and comments on the movement. That the Church has paired specific words with a simple gesture discloses the spiritual significance of these few steps.
The Celebrant sums up ritually what everyone has already done factually. Physically and spiritually each of us has gone out of our way, gathered for Eucharist, and thereby approached Christ, whom the altar represents. We may ask our ourselves why we continue to do this. Respectability no longer demands churchgoing, nor is the fear of Hell an incentive that compels most people. What causes me to bring my faith out of the privacy of my room and into the social realm of the Church? Why do I not only pray, but seek out corporate worship?
The Entrance Antiphon (in Latin, Introit) responds to just these questions. As in a mirror the text points out that we come to Mass because we have recognized something and someone. What we have found in the midst of the temple is acceptance, and the One who accepts. Most of us carry a load of mistakes, fears, and perceived inadequacies. It is the sacramental Christ who receives us and un-shoulders us of these things for which we would reject ourselves. We praise God whose love does not reward goodness, but causes it. So often we accuse ourselves, and each other, on the basis of what we do, or fail to do, at the surface. Life’s epidermis provides the shallow roots of our resentments and detractions, it gives the junk-nourishment to our violent deeds and thoughts.
When we draw near to God we come to the one who knows, better than we ourselves, why we do what what we do. He sees through to the muddled heart of things and recognizes as one of His own the Soul who struggles there. God’s “saving justice” consists in His unrelenting acknowledgement of His own handiwork. God’s knowledge never fails to be effective. God knows my soul as it is and as it can be, and His power will not fail to move me from point A toward point B. God’s justice does not overlook my frailty in kindness, but heals it by grace.
To be comprehended so completely incites our response of amazement and gratitude. In the completeness of His love, Christ gives us the Mass as the vehicle for that response. Its readings, prayers, and songs set before us the array of God’s works and help us to see our own lives within that panorama of blessings. Here is the opportunity to perceive ever more deeply that we are valued in a way that economics, romance, and aging do not limit.
From this realization flows the praise that marks the worship of the Church. Essentially, the Scriptures sing the song of God’s free giving and we put these words on our lips more and more as we recognize that our life has its origin in gift and derives its sustenance from gift. In the three “propers” of the Mass, the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons, the Scriptures bring their vocabulary of praise into the Mass. The hymns drawn from later sources show how the Church has absorbed the perspective of grace.
Perceiving that already we are recipients of “merciful love” and “saving justice” amounts to a wealth beyond value in a world increasingly short of this kind of security. We rest in the reliability of God’s justice and we have hope in its liberating effect.
Perhaps in this weekend we can apply the teaching of God’s giving ways to the marvelous fact of being Americans. The grace of living at this time, in this place, gives freedom to name in the insecurity that drives this election season and to say how the election season deepens insecurity. The United States gives us the freedom to proclaim that we have a wealth within us that the United States in its best, cannot give.
The same wealth will be ours to share with our fellow Americans as an invitation to see beyond the volatility of markets and governments to the security within the temple of people that Christ is still building.
A Blessed Fourth of July,