Immersed in Christ: April 12, 2020
-To remember is to re-member ourselves: to re-commit as members of Christ’s risen body on earth.
On a day-to-day basis, how conscious are you of your Baptism? If you were asked to name your baptismal commitments right now, could you do it?
What do you think about at Mass during the Presentation of Gifts?
The Entrance Antiphon begins with words inspired by Psalm 139, verse 18: The psalmist says, “I have risen: I am with you once more....” We need to be constantly “rising” or “waking up” to be with God “once more.” Physical life is a process of constant renewal, and so is spiritual life. So on Easter Sunday we have the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, “when we rejected Satan and his works and promised to serve God faithfully” as Christians, Disciples, Prophets, Priests and Stewards of his Kingship. We renew the promises to remind us of our commitment. This stimulates us to live it out more consciously. The Instruction provides that “on Sundays, especially in Easter time, in place of the customary Penitential Rite, the blessing and sprinkling with water may occasionally be performed to recall Baptism.”
The Opening Prayer(s) repeat this theme: we ask God to “raise us up and renew our lives” by the Spirit given to us at Baptism. And remembering that after his resurrection “the Lord appeared to men who had begun to lose hope,” we ask him to renew our hope through the Mass: “May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes, that we may know him in the breaking of the bread.” The goal is a renewal of commitment to “follow him in his risen life.”
In the Prayer over the Gifts we call Eucharist “the sacrifice by which your Church is reborn and nourished.” At every Mass we are invited to stand up, reborn out of Baptism’s grave, and say to God: “I have risen: I am with you once more....” It is a time to remember and re-commit, as a “new creation,” to let the Christ whose body we have become live and act with us, in us and through us in everything we do.
The Call to Witness
In his initial explanation of the Good News to the Gentiles, Acts 10: 34, 37-43, Peter uses the word “witness” three times: “We are witnesses of all that [Jesus of Nazareth] did…. witnesses chosen beforehand by God... commissioned to bear witness that he is the one….” Obviously, Peter could not think of the Good News or of himself without awareness of his call to bear witness — a call that belongs to all of us through our baptismal anointing as prophets.
The liturgy invites us to make Peter’s attitude toward this call our own. We embrace it in the Responsorial (Psalm 118): “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”
“Gone ahead of you”
Matthew 28:1-10 (alternate Gospel from Vigil Mass) begins: “As the first day of the week was dawning....” This is the dawn of Christianity. A new beginning. In daylight, when people go to work.
Christ is risen. The seekers are told that if they want to see him, they have to get moving! The angel told the women at the tomb, “He is not here. He goes ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.” Jesus repeated the same message: “Go and carry the news to my brothers that they are to go to Galilee. There they will see me.”
Galilee here is synonymous with mission. “Most of the events of the Synoptic Gospels occurred in Galilee, and there Jesus spent most of his life and most of his ministry.”1 If we want to “see” Jesus, we will find him by joining him in his mission.
To commit to the mission of the Messiah is a mystical experience. It is the experience of call, of being personally invited and empowered by God to do the work of Jesus. Until we hear this call, until we feel moved to take on the work of the Church, we are still “infants” in the faith. Children’s only duty is to develop themselves and grow to maturity. But the mark of maturity is to go beyond oneself in dedication to work that contributes to the well-being of others. We are adults in the Church when we take on the work of the Church.2
People sometimes say they don’t find Mass “meaningful.” The short answer to this is to paraphrase St. John of the Cross and say, “Where you don’t find meaning, put meaning and you will find it.” But what does “meaning” mean?
A dictionary definition is: “adding significance or purpose to somebody’s life.” 3 The Mass explicitly does this.
During the Presentation of Gifts, we are called to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God” in reaffirmation of our Baptism. We send up, as a symbol of ourselves, a host to be placed on the altar, lose its existence as bread, be transformed and offered as the body of Christ for the life of the world. Since the host represents us, this is without doubt an act that “adds significance, meaning and purpose” to our lives. If we mean it.
But if we don’t pay attention to what is happening or to what we are doing, but just sing the hymn along with the choir or watch the altar servers preparing the altar, we won’t experience anything very meaningful. For that we have to consciously be aware of what the Presentation of Gifts is expressing at that moment, make it our own expression, and mean what we express.
What we are expressing is dedication to mission. We are reaffirming our Baptism, declaring our deliberate participation in all that the Mass means and expresses, and presenting ourselves under the form of the bread and wine to be offered with Christ for the life of the world.
May the Lord accept the sacrifice... for our good and that of all his Church.
“A fresh dough”
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 invites us to see the bread being carried up to the altar as us. Paul tells us to be a “fresh dough.” To bring a prophetic freshness to the Church and to the world. To live in a way that makes it obvious Christianity, our religion, is not just the “same old same old.” This is what it means to bear witness to the risen, the living Jesus, the Jesus present and acting in us who are his real body on earth. Now.
To do this, Paul says, we have to “get rid of the old yeast.” What is that?
Yeast is the moving factor. It is what makes the dough rise to become bread. In us, and in human society, the “yeast” is what makes us “rise to the bait” when something is held up before us as an object of choice. The yeast is that complex of attitudes, values, desires, compulsions, fears and expectations that are the interior make-up of each one of us. The yeast is everything prior to free choice itself, but which has the greatest influence on what our free choices will be. The yeast determines the “chronic priorities,” recognized or not, that we bring to every encounter with every object of choice. Whether what is offered is good or bad, the yeast is what makes us spontaneously rise to the bait or be unresponsive to it. It takes an act of free will to actually get hooked on what expands or diminishes life, but the yeast determines the attraction.
The “old yeast” is cultural conditioning. It is made up of all the attitudes, values, etc. that have been “programmed” into us since our first contact with the human race in a society corrupted, as all societies are, by many false attitudes, values and patterns of behavior. To “get rid of the old yeast” is to declare oneself free — and prove it by living by Christ’s standards instead of by those of the culture.
The Presentation of Gifts reminds us at every Mass to be “fresh dough.” But we need to put ourselves consciously on the paten to be presented, transformed, offered and shared as the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
“Of sincerity”: not corrupted, not ruled by the shortsighted standards of the “world” or the blind impulses of the “flesh.” And “of truth”: not the truth of this world’s orbit, but the Truth of the Way that is divine and the Life that is proper to God.
Every time we do this, “the first day of the week is dawning.” It is a new day, a new beginning, a new hope for humanity. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”
Do I find new meaning now in the Presentation of Gifts?
Make the Presentation of Gifts a moment of intense personal re-commitment.
1 McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, under “Galilee.” 2 This is the context in which Paul wrote his famous “Hymn to love” in 1Corinthians, chapters 13-14. He is telling the Corinthians to “grow up” by dedicating themselves to “building up” the Church. 3 Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation.