“It is right to give Him thanks and praise”
Thursday, January 12, 2023, 1st Week in Ordinary Time
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
Dear Readers: We have a gap in the availability of Father Knight's reflections on daily Mass readings. Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)
The word Eucharist actually means “thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is a form of praise. If we have nothing to thank God for, we are hardly inclined to praise him. So the liturgy starts by inviting us to praise and thank God for a number of specific things. Some are specifically Christian things.
Rather than say “invites us,” let’s say the liturgy “guides us through” expressions of praise and thanksgiving that focus us on what we should be aware of about God. And appreciate him for.
This means that if we don’t let ourselves be guided — if we don’t follow — we miss out on what the liturgy is trying to give us.
So the first thing we have to say about Mass is that it is a communal prayer. We don’t go to Mass to “do our own thing.” We go to take part in a communal expression of response to God and to the Good News. We give ourselves, surrender ourselves, to what the group is doing. We let ourselves by guided as active parts of a whole.
My father, a Baptist, went to Mass with me one time and remarked when he came out, “It’s a dance, isn’t it? It’s all choreographed!”
In those days he was probably focused mostly on what the priest and others “up front” in the sanctuary were doing. But it was true of the congregation as well, who stood, sat and knelt “on cue,” and chimed in as a chorus when it was time for them to make responses. He gave me an insight I’ve never forgotten.
Unfortunately, not everyone in our congregations is as conscious of this as my father was. They do “go through the motions” dutifully, but many hardly seem to have their hearts in it. They are not enthusiastically “part of the dance.” They know the basic steps, but they don’t give any indication of hearing the music.
That is what these reflections hope to remedy. It is my hope that everyone who reads them will be better able to “follow” the Mass. Will be personally “in tune” with its developing movements, and listening for the signals that indicate a change of focus, of pace, of mystery being expressed. I want to help people listen to the music and dance!
Dance, then, wherever you may be.
“I am the Lord of the Dance,” said he.
“And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be.
“And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.
Let’s not underestimate the difficulty of dancing. Some people are too hung-up, too self-conscious to dance. Some are too hung-up to sing. The back pews at every Mass are filled with them. Some are too uptight to reveal any thoughts or feelings at all that they consider personal; they won’t even express devotion to God. I understand this.
During a National Cursillo Encounter at Niagara Falls University I arrived two beers late at an impromptu party in the student lounge. Everyone was singing folk songs. I love to sing, so I joined right in. But then they started to dance.
Everyone held hands in a long line and began snaking through the room. I couldn’t join in. People were physically trying to pull me into the line, while I stubbornly held onto the bar — all the time saying to myself, “What is the matter with you? Why won’t you get into the dance? You are just too hung-up!” But I couldn’t. As I said, I was two beers behind.
The next Sunday I was back at my parish yelling at the silent spectators in the pews, “Why won’t you sing?!!”
A voice behind me quietly asked, “Why won’t you dance?”
The truth is, self-expression is dying to self. In varying degrees of spontaneity. It is letting go, losing oneself in a group, giving up control, becoming vulnerable. All self-revelation is.
To join in any communal self-expression is to give up some of your autonomy. You stop being just an individual doing your individual thing. You begin doing what the group is doing, even if it is just singing a song. Then you become a part in a whole. This is a true dying to self. Jesus said it: to become “one bread” each grain must die:
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Initiative: Sing the hymns and say the responses at Mass with enthusiasm!
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry