we meet here on Sunday, a lot of what we do
is centered on a book, and a lot of what we
do is centered on a table. What is this book?
It is simply hundreds of pages on which are written
the words of our scriptures, our Bible. The words
of scripture are set down there according to the
Sundays of the year. Much of our time together
on Sunday, then, is spent in reading aloud those
words and in reflecting on them in the psalm and
And what is this table? Just as the book is made to be a beautiful
and worthy way to carry the words of scripture, so the table is a beautiful and
worthy way to hold bread and wine. Over this bread and wine, our community gives
thanks and praise to God, then shares in holy communion the body and blood of
Gathering around the book and around the table-that
is what we do together on Sunday. Because this is so central to our identity
as Catholics, so important in our lifelong striving to be good Catholics, we
need now and then to think on this Sunday liturgy and how we do it together.
Before the reader ever opens the book on Sunday morning, several things have
to happen. The most basic thing is: There has to be an assembly. The liturgy
is not done by a priest-presider with help from a musician and a lector. The
liturgy on Sunday is done by an assembly-people gathered. Baptized Catholics
come together. We do not come to be an audience, to be spectators while the specialists
do their work. None of us is here to watch. That's hard for us to grasp.
Most of our buildings are set up still as if there were the watchers and the
watched, the audience and the performers. That is a carryover from a time of
several centuries when "pray, pay, and obey" was the way to be a
Catholic. The liturgy that is developing now from the reform begun at the Second
Vatican Council is a liturgy that all of us baptized people do together, that
we know how to do and love to do.
Somehow we are all both privileged and obliged to come here on Sunday-not
to "go to" Mass, not to "attend" Mass, but together to
celebrate the Mass, together to do the Mass. It is the privilege of the baptized:
Only those who are baptized into the death of Christ and live now in Christ can
make the prayer and communion at this altar. And it is our obligation: We baptized
must do this on Sunday. The Church has a rule about attending Mass on Sunday.
The point of that rule is not to burden Catholics. The point is to make one thing
very plain: Each baptized person of this parish is needed here on Sunday. What
we do here takes all of us. We aren't obliged to come and watch, but to
come and do.
During our time together each Sunday, the church is doing
in this room what the church needs to do, hungers and thirsts to do, in order
to be the church. The deeds are done not simply by one individual and another
individual, but by the church here assembled. The body of Christ is proclaiming
itself to be the body of Christ. The body of Christ-you and me-is
identifying itself, remembering itself, preparing itself to live as Christ all
week long. When we come into this room, we do not come to pray alone for an hour
or so. We come to place ourselves beside brothers and sisters and to give all
that we have to give to the work the church has to do here. It is the church
that listens to God's loving word, it is the church that then intercedes,
it is the church that gives God thanks and praise over bread and wine, and it
is the church that takes and is the holy communion. None of us does this alone,
yet the church does nothing without each of us doing all we can.
But we come here as very human, very distracted, very preoccupied
with our own worries, our own agendas, even our own prayers. How then can there
be a church, a body of Christ? Maybe the question is: In a world with so many
worries, agendas, and prayers, how can there not be a church? How can we not
be filled with an eagerness for this one time a week when we can gather all that
worry and agenda and prayer and so much else up into the very body of Christ?
It is hard, certainly. Everything around us says we are to live and strive and
suffer and grow alone. We are so private, so on our own. So it is difficult to
come here and be told-yes, you as an individual person are God's
beloved, as is every brother and sister of ours of every race and religion and
condition in all the world. Yes. But here, here we are to set all that aloneness
aside, because this is the church. God called us in Christ into a church, a body,
and it is that body God speaks to; it is that body that prays here today; it
is that body that sings and gives thanks and is nourished in holy communion.
We are that body! Baptism made us so. God's word each Sunday makes us so.
The Eucharist we do here and the Communion we share here make us so.
Each Sunday we follow many paths to these doors. We come through
these doors into the house of the church. Our house. We come into this meeting
place-a meeting place for each other, a meeting place for the church and
its saints and its Lord. In some parishes, the doors of the building bring the
assembling people right up against the baptism place. Sunday after Sunday, the
font and its water recall that this is indeed the entrance to the church-baptism
into Christ's death, baptism to life in Christ's body, the church.
In places where the font is so approachable, the people assembling each Sunday
can take its water and sign themselves with the cross. But in all of our churches,
water is placed by the door. All of us take this water on our hand and with it
sign ourselves with the cross. Here, we say, "I acknowledge that in this
room I am conscious of what I am a part of and who we are always: the body of
Christ. In this room I let water remind me of my baptism into the church. In
this room I let the sign of the cross remind me of the one to whom I belong.
And so do I prepare for this deed, this Mass, we do together."
Copyright © 1992, Gabe Huck. Used by permission.
may be copied and adapted for your own use;
however, they may not be commercially published
without permission of the author.