When I was a young teen, my friends and I attended the Saturday evening Mass. Somehow we had it in our heads that Mass “counted” so long as we were in Church by the time the Gospel began and stayed at least through reciept of the Eucharist. So we hung out outside of the church until we estimated it should be time for the Gospel and left as soon as we returned from the altar rail. This allowed us to go home and dutifully report to our parents that we had been to Mass.
I sigh now at that behavior, even as I observe many people leaving the Church each Sunday immediately after they receive the Eucharist, missing an incredibly important part of the Mass.
The closing rite of the Mass includes a sending forth. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal lists as one of the elements of the closing rite “the dismissal of the people by the deacon or priest so that each may go out to do good works, praising and blessing God.” Having just listened to the Word of God, having received the Body and Blood, we are commissioned to act on what we have just experienced. I think the language recited by the priest or deacon is meant to call to our minds Jesus’ instruction to his disciples before his Ascension to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
Thus, the closing rite is not just a throwaway. It gives us a reminder we need that our prayer and our lives must be integrated. In the words of one commentator, “if prayer shapes belief, then together they find their true authentication in genuine Christian living. To ignore this inner connection between Eucharist and life is to ignore the bond between the life and mission of the church.”