Voices of Faith

The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Dear Friends:

Who doesn’t love a good party? Whenever there is something to celebrate— a birthday, a wedding, or some particular victory or accomplishment— food and drink will almost always be shared. Food is for humans not merely a matter of sustenance, but meals are often “experiences” of fellowship. Certain foods are related to rituals or occasions (some of those might be rooted in particular cultures or as part of traditions particular to a specific group or family). Food can be connected to a ritual, and food can have symbolic value. Think of the ritual that surrounds the presentation of the birthday cake, or of eating popcorn at a movie or partaking of a hot dog and a beer at a baseball game. Each of us might also have memories of particular favorite foods that evoke powerful memories of a loved one or a particular event. Whether you consider yourself a “foodie” or not, food is important to us on many levels.

It is no wonder, then, that Jesus frequently evokes the image of a banquet in describing the Kingdom of Heaven and that Isaiah envisions the promise of God as “a feast of rich food and choice wines: juicy rich food and pure, choice wines” (Isaiah 25:6). What’s not to like about that?! Nothing, except that sometimes we don’t avail ourselves to what the Lord offers us in his kindness toward us, or in taking his gifts for granted, we approach the banquet without much intention or thought.

Our celebration of the Mass also builds on the image of a banquet, and our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is meant to point us toward heaven. It is here that we celebrate the wondrous deeds of God who is present among us with loving mercy. It is here that we offer ourselves as a living “sacrifice of praise” because Jesus Christ offered himself as a sacrifice to save us from our sins. It is here that we feast on his grace, and it is here that our priorities line up with those of the gospel. The liturgy, then, is meant to give us a glimpse of heaven: Christ at the center, songs of praise from choirs of angels, and all the heavenly host caught up in divine love. If only we could hold onto that experience, then we would find our lives always centered on Christ and everything else would fall into place.

The Liturgy, especially the Eucharist (the Mass) is often described as the “source and the summit” of the Christian life. To experience the Mass in this way, we need to bring all our joys and blessings (so that we can offer thanks for them) as well as our concerns and our struggles (so that we give them over to God’s mercy). And then we need to take what we experience in the Mass and allow it to shape the rest of our week and guide all our thoughts, words, and deeds. Each of us has something to gain from the Mass, and each of us has something to contribute with our presence, our “full, conscious, and active participation,” and our devotion to the Lord. It is a joy for me (and for Fr. Carlos and Fr. Sam) to lead our community in worship, and I am moved by our communal expressions of faith in our active engagement, especially in our singing. Visitors and newcomers often offer compliments about the quality of our worship. While the Liturgy is primarily the work of Jesus Christ, it is the Church that embodies that work in our worship. Always remember your role in offering thanks to God, and see your participation as giving your best to the Lord, who has given his best—his very life—for us.

God’s peace to you this week,

Fr. Rick