9th Sunday of OT (B)
June 2, 2018
What’s really in a puff…
June 2, 2018

Liturgy of the Word

The Church celebrated Corpus Christi last Thursday. This is the conclusion of a five-part series of reflections on the Eucharist by Fr Gabriel Julien.

When people gather for a meal, there is always conversation. Similarly, at Mass, after the gathering and penitential rites we sit to listen attentively to the word of God. This Liturgy usually consists of three readings and a Psalm.

On Sunday, two readings, from sacred scripture, precede the proclamation of the Gospel.  The first complements the Gospel and the second, taken from one of the letters of Paul or one of the apostles, is selected independently.

The reading taken from the Old Testament invites us to enter into the experience of God’s people being led gradually into the fullness of the revelation. It helps us to perceive the Good News with a new depth and clarity of vision.

The Psalm which comes after the first reading causes us to reflect further on the word of God and to believe that God is really present in the Word. Moreover, it calls us to respond to God, since He communicates to us through the readings and, thus, the Psalm forms an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word.

To proclaim the Gospel, the priest says: “The Lord be with you.”  The people respond: “And also with you.” At the end of the proclamation the priest says: “The Gospel of the Lord.” The people reply: “Glory to You, O Lord, Jesus Christ.”

In the first scenario, the response is directed to the celebrant: “And also (be) with you.” In the second instance, the emphasis is on God: “Glory to You, O Lord, Jesus Christ.”

When the Gospel is read at Mass, Jesus Christ proclaims again His Good News.  Jesus stands there in person to speak to us, just as He spoke to the crowds in His time. Hence, we stand to be attentive at this significant moment.

God’s verbal communication reaches its highest in the proclamation of the Good News. It tells us about God Himself, even God’s inmost secrets: “I call you friends because I have made known to you all that I have learnt from my Father.”

The homily should flow from the Gospel. It should explain the word of God and help the faithful to apply this message in their daily lives. The homily, which is an exhortation to accept the word of God, provides an opportunity to hear the Lord and prepare to respond in the Creed. The Creed is a very personal moment when the faithful commit themselves to God.

At the beginning of Mass, God initiates conversation and responds to the faithful through the words of absolution. Then the people praise and ask Him for continual assistance. God again responds with life-giving words from sacred scriptures.  We respond in a variety of ways: reflective and silent listening, song, profession of faith and petitions. The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the general intercessions.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

The gifts presented at the offertory symbolise the gifts of our lives. God accepts them and changes them into His very self and gives Himself in Holy Communion.  Again the faithful respond with reflective silence and song of thanksgiving confident that our entire life might be a response to God. God responds with a blessing and a commissioning to go forth and share His love with others.

In the early days, people often brought the fruits of their labour and the work of their hands to their celebration. This was set aside to support the priest as well as those who were in need. From the gifts presented, the priest selected the bread and wine for the actual celebration. Therefore, Jesus continued to use those staples.

The bread which comes from the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies to make many grains clearly shows that the death of Christ is the source of all Christian life. The priest places the bread and wine on the altar. He mixes the water with the wine and washes his hands. This gesture of mixing water with wine and washing hands were some of the customs the Jews followed during a meal.

The unleavened bread reminds us that a people were freed by God.  They had to rush and there was no time to leaven the dough and let it rise. Similarly, in a rush over our active lives, if we bring what we have, who we are, to the Lord, He will lead us to freedom. He will make a covenant with us, an everlasting covenant of love.

God made wine to gladden the heart and it underscores the festive aspect in the Eucharistic meal. The Eucharist is a joyful meal, a thanksgiving in which we are very conscious of our numerous blessings. Therefore, the celebrant offers the gifts of bread and wine using the following words: “Blessed are You, Lord, of heaven and earth. Through Your goodness…”

Furthermore, the celebrant collects all the aspirations, hopes and prayers of the community and brings the offertory rite to completion to express a deep and heart-felt Amen.

In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Jesus Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit. This act of thanksgiving is centred on the works of creation, redemption and sanctification.

The hosanna then follows and the faithful are filled with light and splendour. The gifts are at the altar and they are ready to be consecrated.  Similarly, the people are also ready for the great prayer that transcends all times and places and makes present the greatest act of all creation.

The Eucharistic Prayer

The Eucharistic prayer brings us to the very heart of the Mass and of our faith and generally follows three patterns:

We remember all God’s wonderful deeds

We recall the central event of our own history that is the life, death and    resurrection of Jesus and in particular the Meal.

We express gratitude to God and make petitions and most of all we pray that we will become one body, one spirit in Christ.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, the celebrant asks God to send his Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine and transform them into the body and blood of Christ.  The celebrant also prays that the faithful may be transformed into the body of Christ: “May all who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.” (Eucharistic Prayer II)

“Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.”  (Eucharistic Prayer III)

“Look upon this sacrifice which you have given to your church and by your Holy Spirit, gather all who share this bread and wine, into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise.”  Eucharistic Prayer IV)

Therefore, at every Eucharistic celebration the faithful ask God to send his Holy Spirit to perform two very special functions: to transform the gifts into the body and blood of Christ, and transform our hearts so that through the participation in communion we may become one body.

This Eucharistic celebration is done in unity with the entire church in Heaven and on Earth in unity with the pope, bishops, priests and deacons.

The Lord’s Prayer and Sign of Peace continue to prepare the faithful to eat and drink at the table of the Lord: “Give us this day our daily bread.” At communion time we receive Holy Communion and are given an opportunity to make our personal and private prayer to God. The final blessing follows and the faithful   leave the church with deep faith and love and carry Jesus in our hearts.

Thus, the Eucharist is a great act of thanksgiving where the church follows the command of the Lord: “Do this in memory of me.” The Church offers the Father what He has given to us: gifts of bread and wine which really and truly become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.