Immersed in Christ: January 9, 2021
Saturday After Epiphany
(Continue reflections on 1John)
The Responsorial (Psalm 149) invites us to end the Christmas season — the season that celebrates the “new creation” of the world that began with the birth of Christ — with the words: “The Lord takes delight in his people.”
This invites us to look at all we have celebrated during Advent and Christmas, and to “take delight” in it as God does. We need to see and to affirm that “it is good.”
This is what the Introductory Rites lead us in doing as we begin every Mass.
the Introductory Rites end with the Opening Prayer, preceded by the invitation “Let us pray.”
The “us” here includes, not only the assembled congregation, but the whole Church throughout the world. At Mass the entire Church prays as a united body, “for the celebration of the Eucharist is the action of the whole Church.” In the Opening Prayer we rise above our individual preoccupations and “lose” our private intentions to find them and ourselves on a higher level by embracing the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s desire and the prayer of his body on earth. As Church, the assembly is also “called to offer God the prayers of the entire human family” and to “give thanks in Christ for the mystery of salvation.” This broadens our perspective.2
It also makes it easier to have the “confidence” that 1John 5: 14-21 speaks of: “that he hears us whenever we as for anything according to his will.” We pray, not as individuals or a collection of individuals, but as the divine-human body of Christ on earth. “We are in the One who is true, for we are in his Son Jesus Christ... the true God and eternal life.” We have but one desire: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In all our prayers and desires, John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
In John 3: 22-30 John the Baptizer gives us the image for this, and he himself sets the example. Jesus is the Bridegroom, to be embraced with total, undivided love. We have the double role of “brides in the Bride” in relationship to Christ, and as “friends of the bridegroom” in relationship to others. We live to bring ourselves and others into total union of mind and will and heart with him. We do this by “losing” ourselves as individual grains of wheat to “find” ourselves as one bread transformed into Christ to be consumed by others as bread of life for the world. In both roles the rule of passionate, selfless love is, “He must increase, while I must decrease.” We see in the newborn Jesus at Christmas time the “Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” As we make his self-emptying our own, “The Lord takes delight in his people.” And, more and more, so will we. 3
Initiative: Absorb Christmas. Find it in the Introductory Rites at Mass.
1 Genesis 1:1-31. 2 General Instruction for the Roman Missal, July, 2000, nos. 5, 54; Vatican II, Decree on Liturgy, nos. 7, 26, 41; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368-1369. Note that no prayer of the Mass is ever addressed to Mary or a Saint; only to God. The Opening Prayer “customarily is addressed to God the Father, through Christ in the Holy Spirit.” 3 Matthew 20:28.