CHURCH BELLS ARE RINGING #5
Categories: Father Fay's Section
The sound of the church bells ringing is getting louder
In our attempt to come out of this pandemic more faithful to God’s call and our worship of him we can find nothing better to consider than the dialogue he has established between him and us which we refer to as the word of God. It is at the heart of our relationship with him. It is the living word and is active in our lives to this very day.
Jesus leads us in this. After all he is the Word of God among us. In his sojourn on this earth showed himself to be a leader of the liturgy (the priest) not just at the Last Supper but earlier. At the beginning of his public life he returned to his hometown of Nazareth and participated in the worship there in his synagogue. He was asked to do a reading — to proclaim the word of God.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 46-21).
This last line was his “homily” to explain how God’s word was taking place then and there in their midst and that God was calling them to respond with faith in his Son whom the Father had sent to them. The word to focus on is today, here and now the word of God was spoken to them to let him create in their hearts a greater love of him and attachment to the ancient Covenant. The word of God at that moment was active — God was then and there speaking to his people and his people were being called to respond with their word of faith and love. The interaction between heaven and earth was taking place in the worship service. That is the thanksgiving God was looking for. This is what liturgy is.
The Church in our day has openly and loudly taught that the word of God is essential to liturgy pleasing to God. As we return to Mass soon we wish to return with a greater appreciation of God’s word active in our dialogue with him, especially as he gathers us, the body of Christ, to celebrate and praise him and let his Word find more room in our hearts. So we offer here some considerations to take us in that direction and be more pleasing to God at the time of our Eucharistic Action.
Before we go further I remind you that the word of God is active throughout the Mass — from start to finish, not just in the Liturgy of the Word. With some regret when titles were given to the parts of the Mass, it was divided into Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. This gave the impression that a certain part was sectioned off for the word of God and when that was over the word of God was left behind and we went on to something else, the Communion part. In truth the word of God is active in both of these parts, e.g. the Communion antiphon is generally from the scriptures. But the word of God goes forth from the mouth of God at the beginning when God calls us together and sends us forth at the end with his peace (shalom) which is living the Covenant. The word is everywhere and a better awareness of this will elicit a deeper loving response from us.
So perhaps number one for us is to learn and practice the presence of God’s word at every moment of the Mass. All of this is Communion with the God of the Covenant. So to practice the word of God at the very time of the Mass is living the Covenant. And what we generally call going to Communion is a high point of all the word of God has been doing throughout the whole ritual. In our day to recognize this and participate in the word of God every minute is a great gift. In comparison with virtual worship (by TV or Internet) our presence as the body of Christ, the Church, when we are at Mass in person puts us in greater contact with the God who speaks to us and awaits our response. This communion with the Lord through his word draws us into communion with God’s people who are the living embodiment of the Covenant which is for here and hereafter. This is what we mean by the Blood of Christ of the new and eternal Covenant. It is our sharing here and now of God’s plan for us.
Secondly, to return to something I said earlier, it is the word of God, not just the word of man as Saint Paul taught
And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe [editor’s emphasis] (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
When God and his Son speak to us live we are in the presence, the real presence, of the Lord. This is why to improve and participate more at Mass we have to come to the realization that we are really and truly dialoguing with God himself — at that moment. This is why the Church speaks of the real presence of Christ in his word (Introduction to the Missal, #27)
This may be the time as we strive to enter into the conversation more with the living and loving God and his Son that the word of God is not exclusively on the printed page of the Bible. If this be the case we have to be more attuned to God whenever and wherever he speaks. One example is that God’s creative word is in his believers there and then at Mass. As we look around and make ourselves aware of this fact right before our eyes God is speaking to us of the extent of his love, not just in us, but in all the people assembled by him. That is the word of God to which we listen with our eyes and take into our hearts so we can speak the praises of God. Our not having the Mass during these days makes us cherish more our parish congregation all the more.
[Side note] As spin off of liturgical practice — that God’s word is at work here and now — we understand the action of preaching the word causes faith in the one who listens and believes.
There is more to be said as time goes on. Stay tuned.