We attended Mass yesterday at Our Lady of Lourdes, since Elena was again singing there. Although I love my own parish, I enjoy masses at Lourdes, presided over by my friend Fr. Dan Griffith.
One of the points Dan made in his sermon had to do with the unity of the three fundamental aspects of the Mass: We listen to the Word of God, which creates in us a disposition of gratitude at God’s presence and work in the world. With that spirit of gratitude, we partake of the Eucharist, by which we are filled with the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus transformed, we go forth to bring God to those we encounter.
The relationship of those three elements is important for us to remember for at least two reasons. First, I have heard many people respond to criticisms of homilies at Catholic Masses by saying, “what’s important is the Eucharist, not the homily.” While we do speak of the Eucharist being “the sum and summit of our faith,” our disposition in receiving the Eucharist matters, which means the Liturgy of the Word is an essential element of the Mass. The breaking open of the Word in the homily is an important part of that.
Second, I’ve commented before about people departing Mass immediately after they receive the Euchrist. I understand that on occasion people are rushed and need to get out of Mass as quickly as possible. (I have left a couple of weekday Masses that were running late immediately after communion where I’ve had someplace I had to be immediately thereafter.) But some people make a habit of behaving as though Mass is over as soon as they receive. It is a bad habit; the sending forth that ends Mass reminds us that our experience of the sacrament is not over when we walk out of Church. Instead we are sent forth to “love and serve” the Lord, to be Christ to those we encounter.
Disposition, reception, and going forth. All are important aspects to our celebration of the Mass.