Monday, 19 September 2011

The Lord be with you

I am thoroughly enjoying the book by Edward Sri titled “A biblical walk through the Mass.” I recommend that everyone should read it. Particularly, in light of all the hype that followed the introduction of the new english translation of the Mass in South Africa.

I decided to make a conscious decision to ignore all the negative columns and readers letters in Catholic newspapers like the Southern Cross. Anyone who has been through change in a corporate environment knows that any change always faces huge resistance. Very often, it is a complete illogical and unreasonable, even childlike, resistance to the change.

This is normal because people just don’t like change. Of course, most people will justify their resistance to the change with arguments that at face value, seem to make complete sense. It can get particularly confusing for us, especially when presented by a bishop, or a priest, or even a layperson that is perceived to have a very good grasp of the facts of our faith. Trust me, they, like others, are also just reacting negatively to change.

The best approach is to focus on the positives of the change. One of the big positives is an opportunity for us to again think about the words and actions that are used during Mass, instead of just automatically rattling off the appropriate responses. Use this opportunity to focus on what the Mass is all about, as though you have just joined the Catholic Church. Leave those rabble-rousers well alone because they are intent on giving themselves, and anyone who cares to follow them, unnecessary ulcers.

Here is an example of some learning that can come from looking at the words in the Mass from a fresh perspective.

We are all familiar with the greeting with which we begin Mass.

Priest: The Lord be with you
People: And with your spirit

This greeting at the beginning of Mass is not an ordinary greeting like we would use to greet someone when we meet for the first time in the day. This is not simply a “Good morning” with a reciprocal “Good morning to you too, Father.” No, the greeting words are special and are intended to convey a very specific message.

These words make us aware that Jesus is present at Mass with us. “For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.[1]

But these words also remind us that God is with us, just as He was when He asked various people in Sacred Scripture to do some really courageous work. Listen how He comforts, encourages and prepares them to do His will.

Yahweh appeared to him (Isaac) the same night and said: I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I shall bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.[2]

Moses said to God, 'Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?' 'I shall be with you,' God said.[3]

As long as you (Joshua) live, no one will be able to resist you; I shall be with you as I was with Moses; I shall not fail you or desert you.[4]

But Yahweh replied, 'Do not say, "I am only a child," for you (Jeremiah) must go to all to whom I send you and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of confronting them, for I am with you to rescue you, Yahweh declares.'[5]

He went in and said to her (Mary), 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you.'[6]

These words should be words that remind us that God is with us there in Mass, but also wherever we go. No matter what you face, the Lord is with you!

When we respond to the priest, using the new english translation, we say “And with your spirit.” These words remind us that the Holy Spirit is working in a unique way through the priest during the Mass. “The people are addressing the spirit of the priest; that is, that deepest interior part of his being where he has been ordained precisely to lead the people in this sacred tradition. They are saying in effect ‘Be the priest for us now’.[7]

[1] Matthew 18: 20
[2] Genesis 26: 24
[3] Exodus 3: 11 – 12a
[4] Joshua 1: 5
[5] Jeremiah 1: 7 – 8
[6] Luke 1: 28
[7] Jeremy Driscoll, What happens at Mass, pg. 25

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