Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament,
24 January 2010
When we come to Mass, we literally
come to Christ!
At the head of every celebration of the Mass is
Jesus Christ Himself. He is the principal agent of the Eucharist. He
is the High Priest of the New Covenant. It is He Himself who presides
invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration. It is in representing Him
that the bishop or priest presides over the assembly. It is in
representing Him that they preach after the readings. It is in
representing Him that they receive the offerings and say the Eucharistic
Prayer. The bishop or the priest act in the person of Christ the Head!
They act in the person of Christ the Head during the Mass
the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (cf. CCC
The readings today particularly highlight the
Liturgy of the Word. During Mass, the Liturgy of the Word covers all
the readings, the homily, the Credo, and the General Intercession. The
Liturgy of the Word is an integral part of sacramental celebrations. To
nourish the faith of believers, the signs which accompany the Word of
God are emphasized. Sometimes we have the procession of the Book of the
Gospels before its proclamation; and this emphasizes its importance and
veneration. Like this morning, we have the incense and the candles
during its proclamation to show its importance and veneration. And the
place where it's proclaimed from the lectern or ambo also emphasize that
the Word of God is being proclaimed. The audible and intelligible
reading, homily, and the responses of the people are more signs which
accompany the Word of God being emphasized (cf. CCC 1154).
The Liturgy of the Word during Mass is prefigured
all the way back to the time of Ezra. We heard from the Book of
Nehemiah in the First Reading the description of what Ezra, the priest,
did in the synagogue. It’s very similar to what we do at Mass. Ezra
was standing at one end and standing higher up; that’s what the priest
or deacon does: standing at one end and standing higher up. As Ezra
opened the scroll, the people rose up; that’s what happened at the
Gospel during the Mass, the people stand to listen the Gospel
proclaimed. Then Ezra interpreted the reading for the people; and
that’s what the priest or deacon or bishop does after the proclamation
of the Gospel, he gives the homily.
Whenever we read the Old Testament, we try to keep
in mind Jesus Christ because everything written in the Old Testament
leads us to Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of all prophecies in
the Old Testament. Ezra, too, prefigures Jesus Christ, the Eternal High
Priest, which we heard in the Gospel today. Jesus was handed the scroll
of Isaiah to read and then He gave his “homily” by saying: Today,
this passage is fulfilled in your hearing. Again, the Liturgy of
the Word goes back all the way to Ezra’s and Our Lord’s time. The
people were attentive in hearing the readings being interpreted by Ezra
and by Our Lord.
So, the Liturgy of the Word is like a form of a
dialogue. God speaks to us through the readings and the homily; and we
respond to Him by our profession of faith and interceding on behalf of
the Church as a whole.
Mother Angelica gives us her advice on how to
listen to sermons. She said: “Don’t shut off the Word, because you’re
going to miss a lot of graces in your life. Don’t say, ‘I’ve heard all
of this before.’ Listen to what the Spirit wants to say to you right
now… Now, maybe you don’t like his interpretation. Fine. You don’t
have to like it. There are a lot of speakers that I don’t like. But
there have been times where the worst speaker will say something that
hits me like a rock. So please don’t sit there with a Christian Science
grin. Wake up and listen. Really listen! There is no sermon that you
cannot get something out of . I don’t care who gives it. It’s not what
they are saying. It’s the Word! You need to ask only one question when
that homily begins: ‘What is Jesus going to say to me today?’”
Also, for your information, the Church provides the
faithful an indulgence for listening to the homily. “A partial
indulgence is granted to the faithful, who assist with devotion and
attention at the sacred preaching of the Word of God.” The key words
is: “who assist with devotion and attention at the
sacred preaching of the Word of God.”
For us, priests, preaching is indeed an important
office we’ve been given to fulfill faithfully. As the Holy Father said
to us, priests, in Lourdes in September 2008: “What marvels surround our
work [of administering the divine sacraments] in the service of God’s
word! We are instruments of the Holy Spirit; God is so humble that he
uses us to spread His word. We become His voice, once we have listened
carefully to the word coming from His mouth. We place His word on our
lips in order to bring it to the world.”
We are being formed through the preaching of the
word of God. This is when we decide to leave sin behind during the
preaching of the word of God. This is when we convert during the
preaching of the word. It is during the preaching of the word that we
decide to embrace the life of the Gospel and abandon the worldly life.
It is during the preaching of the word that we decide to strive for
virtue and abandon vices.
As the Second Vatican Council states: “The People
of God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the living
God, which is quite rightly sought from the mouth of the priests. For
since nobody can be saved who has not first believed, it is the first
task of priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God
to all men. In this way they carry out the Lord’s command ‘Go into all
the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:15) and thus
set up and increase the People of God.”
So we are being formed during the preaching of the
Word of God including the priest himself who preaches from the pulpit.
I want to conclude with an insight of St. John
Marie Vianney, the patron of all priests, about preaching. Through his
words, he speaks to us, priests, and to the rest of the People of God.
First, he calls us, priests, to model after the good thief on the cross;
and then, he speaks to the lay faithful.
Be like ministers who offer Jesus Christ to God
his Father and make him the sacrifice of all they are, and take as a
good model the good thief on the cross. What progress he makes during
the three hours that he finds himself in the company of his dying
Savior! First, he opens the eyes of his soul to recognize his
deliverer; then, fastened to the cross, and having nothing that remains
free but his heart and tongue, he offers both to Jesus Christ. He
consecrates his heart to him by faith and hope, and humbly asks of him a
place in paradise; and he consecrates his tongue to him by proclaiming
his innocence and holiness: “It is just that we should suffer,” he says
to his companion, “but as for Him, He is innocent.” …
My children, you listen when you like the preacher; but if the preacher
does not suit you, you turn him into ridicule… We must not think so
much about the man. It is not the body that we must attend to.
Whatever the priest may be, he is still the instrument that the good God
makes use of to distribute His Holy Word. You pour liquor through a
funnel; whether it be made of gold or of copper, if the liquor is good
it will still be good.
So preparation is important when we come to Mass!
There is no chewing gum during Mass! When we come to Mass, we come to
Christ. Let us ask Our Lady to help us always prepare for the Mass.
Let us ask Her every time we assist at Mass, we would do it with love
and devotion. Let us ask Her to prepare our hearts, our minds, and our
souls to receive Her Son as if it would be our first time, as if it
would be our last time, as if it would be our only time.