Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Petititon 2 -- Go Out To All The World

One addition on the petition aspect of the eucharistic prayers. In some cases, especially prayer II, you can see a sort of progression in the prayers. II starts with the very specific -- the gifts we offer right now, the community right here sharing in the body and blood -- and broadens outward, to include the whole Church, then all of our brethren who have died, then all who have died, and finally all people -- "have mercy on us all." Children's prayer I has a somewhat similar progression, put quite lovely:
because you love us,
you invite us to come to your table.
Fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit
as we receive the body and blood of your Son.

Lord, you never forget any of your children.
We ask you to take care of those we love,
and we pray for those who have died.

Remember everyone who is suffering from pain or sorrow.
Remember Christians everywhere
and all other people in the world.
As I said, this step by step progression is not the general pattern of the eucharistic prayers. But it highlights an important quality of the eucharistic prayers -- their range of attention always goes out beyond the confines of the Catholic or Christian community. We come to Mass as members of a certain worshipping community and a certain denomination of faith, and with a clear desire to be fed, more generally to be saved. But the activity of the liturgy is meant to affect the whole world. Through it, we are meant to affect the whole world.

I was at dinner tonight with a Jesuit who put it well. Normally, he said, we Catholics think that we're supposed to go to Mass on Sunday and then live our lives the other 6 days of the week. That is the traditional way. Our faith is what we do on Sunday.

And that's just plain wrong. In point of fact, six days of the week we're supposed to live our lives in the light of the Gospel, to let our choices and actions be guided by the invitations and challenges of our faith -- and then on the 7th day, we come together to celebrate that life, those choices, our world, and renew ourselves for the week and choices and challenges to come.

Sometimes when I preside I ask myself, what is this parish, this Mass for? If we're coming just to check a box -- I fulfilled my Sunday obligation -- I think we might as well stay home. No worries, God will find us there.

Is a parish, a Mass there so I can feel better or get closer to God? Yes, absolutely. Is it there to sustain itself, to provide a way of maintaining a community or diocese? Sure, in part. But if all we're open to is being helped and making sure our parish or the Church continues to exist, we're like baby birds that won't leave the nest. God didn't call Jesus, didn't call us to be fed, but to go out, go wander this amazing and broken world and be his emissaries, be signs of hope and freedom, God's love and mercy. That's where the real joy is to be found.

Even as we ask for what we need, our petitions remind us of this broader horizon. They're there to expand our imaginations beyond the four walls of this building or the boundaries of this diocese to the whole world.

Let's fly, my friends, fly!

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