Offers food for thought
The Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-1
There is an unmistakable connection between the lectionary Scripture Readings of the 27th and 28th Sundays of Ordinary Time (October 8th and 15th). The focus on the readings for the 8th, for these reflections, has to do with the Liturgy, the Eucharistic Celebration and how the fruit of worship is our labor in the house of God. Connected to that, is the our focus on the readings for the 15th, which has to do with what it means to accept the invitation of God. In the audio homilies for these two Sundays, I focused very specifically on these two connected themes, however in this written reflection I’ll expand the focus to a much more in depth consideration.
Part 1: The House of God as Vineyard in which we labor to produce the fruit of worship, the kind of worship which is due our God. This is a theme that organizations study, theologians debate, editorial writers pontificate about and parishioners spend more time complaining about than maybe anything else! Let’s reflect on the way in which we offer this Celebration of Thanksgiving… Eucharist. The way in which we the ‘workers’ tend to the production of worship in the vineyard of the House of God. Lets do this in absolute affirmation of the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, who said, “a parish will be involved in many activities. But none is as vital … as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist. Through regular and fervent reception of the sacraments, God’s people come to know the fullness of the Christian dignity that is theirs by baptism; they are elevated and transformed. … That experience, in turn, becomes a powerful motive for evangelization.” Which is said in affirmation of and informed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I think it’s important to be honest, at the outset of our reflections, about the fact that there are a lot of Catholics who say that the liturgy is boring. Yet, there are also those who oppose that view and say that since Vatican II the Mass has become ‘a circus side show’ with the Priest performing on the main stage! Rather than list all the various opinions that arise on the landscape between those two extremes we can just admit that everybody seems to have some idea of what THEY want to see happen during Mass. Those ideas range from everything common at mega church evangelical non-denominational services, to absolute silence and no end of variations in between. For the most part, these opinions and expectations are born of attitudes that tend to see our Eucharistic Celebration from a ‘consumer’ / ‘product’ point of view, but are not always… some are borne of a desire to create and experience the kind of worship which SEEEMS due to God, but is really good for me… and although not as numerous, some even reflect the teaching of the Church on the Eucharistic Celebration!
There is no doubt that we must also be clear from the start, that no matter where we celebrate, what that place or church looks like, no matter how dull, animated, instructive, funny, short or long the homily, or if the music is Gregorian Chant, contemporary hymn, upbeat, downbeat, off key or moves your soul to mystical union… WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ALTAR is the key, and so long as the simple elements of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ… THAT ‘REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST’ SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO KEEP OUR ATTENTION.
In a reflection such as this, we ought to carefully consider, according to the ageless wisdom and careful consideration of the human person and human experience by ‘Mother Church’; what are the essential elements of ‘good liturgy’, that have to do with the brothers and sisters of Christ in the pews (the Mystical Body of Christ the Church).
in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.
The word ‘liturgy’ comes from the Greek leitourgia meaning a public service or voluntary work of the people. People create liturgy, and good liturgy requires the bringing together of many talents and ministries. The music, art, furnishings and vestments need to be the best and most worthy that we are able to bring before God. And, to our proclamation of scripture, our processions, liturgical actions and prayers we must bring a most authentic spirit. Specifically, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states;
Liturgy is an "action" of the whole Christ (Christus totus). It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates. "Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is 'the sacrament of unity,' namely, the holy people united and organized under the authority of the bishops. Therefore, liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of the Church. They manifest it, and have effects upon it. But they touch individual members of the Church in different ways, depending on their orders, their role in the liturgical services, and their actual participation in them."
Three pastors of parishes that have an understanding of the need for liturgical renewal and who we might say represent the balance between the extremes, are striving to bear amazing liturgical fruit of worship, according to their circumstances while being mindful of and faithful to Church teaching and guidance regarding the Liturgy. In one instance, realizing that their efforts to address the shrinking numbers of parishioners were failing, the pastor put an end to ‘innovations’ in the Liturgy that although well intended they were not well advised. He, in consultation with parishioners, restored and reintroduced a more disciplined and reverent liturgical life that affirmed very clearly that everything in personal and parish life must flow from the Mass. Another pastor, recognizing a similar truth and experience in his parish, said that if the Mass is to be experienced as ‘the Source and Summit’ of the Christian way of life, then it is essential to concentrate on celebrating the Novus Ordo “with a real, sacred sense of reverence and following with a holy obedience what the Church is asking.” In another instance, the pastor of a parish in a less than ‘safe and prosperous’ area of an urban center, also curtailed many of the 1960’s and 70’s liturgical innovations that tended to, in a well meaning manner, over emphasize the ‘communal meal’ and ‘fellowship gathering’ aspects of the liturgy and began to bring the liturgy in line with solid and timeless theology and fidelity to the Church. What happened there as in parishes all over the United States, was a renewal of the liturgy which drew parishioners back. When asked ‘why are people coming?’, the pastor said “If you have a beautiful liturgy and charitable hearts, they feed each other.”
The solutions of these pastors were not reactionary, angry, driven by popularized protestant or Catholic ‘church marketing models’, or by personal preferences. They looked to the Church for guidance, and followed the directions. They understood that not all who are invited to the banquet will come ready to embrace the call to transformation; not all will want to stay. They understood that that's 'ok' and trusted that God, through divine interaction and the mission work of the disciples of Christ, would continue to call them back. They also understood that, although...
“evangelization and liturgy are closely united. While liturgy is an important part of evangelization in the inward direction, it should not be used as a means of primary and initial evangelization in the outward direction because its end does not lie directly in this action. The Sacred Liturgy is essential to evangelization as it brings about the sanctification of man, and equips the faithful with the grace and impetus required to evangelize those who need to hear the Gospel.”
They were, as Christians first and as Priests called from among the people, not at all unaware of the essential relationship between the ‘Heavenly Banquet’ and the Eucharistic Celebrations, our liturgy here on earth. Every time they celebrated the liturgy, they were keenly aware of their connection to the heavenly worship referred to and described in the Book of Revelation.
They were keenly aware of their role, that...
Certain members are called by God, in and through the Church, to a special service of the community. These servants are chosen and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Holy Spirit enables them to act in the person of Christ the head, for the service of all the members of the Church.13 The ordained minister is, as it were, an "icon" of Christ the priest. Since it is in the Eucharist that the sacrament of the Church is made fully visible, it is in his presiding at the Eucharist that the bishop's ministry is most evident, as well as, in communion with him, the ministry of priests and deacons. (1142)
and not unaware of the other essential roles of the faithful which contribute to the work of all within the vineyard of God’s Church and gives rise to worship which is worthy of God. Regarding this, we read in ‘Sacrosanctum Concillum’;
26. Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops  Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation.
27. It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private. This applies with especial force to the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments, even though every Mass has of itself a public and social nature.
28. In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.
29. Servers, lectors commentators, and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical function. They ought, therefore, to discharge their office with the sincere piety and decorum demanded by so exalted a ministry and rightly expected of them by God's people. Consequently they must all be deeply imbued with the spirit of the liturgy, each in his own measure, and they must be trained to perform their functions in a correct and orderly manner.
30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.
31. The revision of the liturgical books must carefully attend to the provision of rubrics also for the people's parts.
32. The liturgy makes distinctions between persons according to their liturgical function and sacred Orders, and there are liturgical laws providing for due honors to be given to civil authorities. Apart from these instances, no special honors are to be paid in the liturgy to any private persons or classes of persons, whether in the ceremonies or by external display.
As St. Paul reminded us in Romans, regarding our participation in liturgy and the faith lived, we all have differing roles.
It should be abundantly clearly now, that it isn't liturgical innovation which is not foreseen, recommended or reasonably commensurate with the Word of the God, the Church or tradition, that we need for well planned and fruitful liturgy. We have all we need by way of instruction, guidance and experience as well as the gifts God has given each one of us for Worship. However, WE ARE ESSENTIAL, in the sense that at every Eucharistic Celebration, no matter how many people are present... every person present must be committed to the work at hand, ready, willing and able to bring forth the worship of God which is due. Then and only then can our celebration be worthy fruit. The it will flow with integrity. In it’s orchestral beauty, it will never fail to draw us into the depths of the living Word, raise our souls, guided in ritual expression of the inexpressible, to sing our praises and bring us to our knees in humble prayer. We will rest in the wellspring of silence as a refuge from the distractions of the enemy and a gateway into the mysteries. With our bodies, with our minds, with our souls… an integrated whole, caught up in the vastness of the love and mercy of God which washes over us in abundance… we are made one by the animating Holy Spirit, the living, breathing, worshipping mystical Body of Christ.
In part two, we will reflect upon the nature of the liturgy, these heavenly and earthly banquets, and how it is that we might be able to be the kind of laborers in the vineyard of the House of God, who produce an abundance of fruitful worship.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.