Over the last five weeks in our Sunday message series called, It’s Better In Here, we have been reflecting on all the reasons that our lives are enriched when we come to church. In our homilies and the bulletin articles written by parishioners, we have shared the beauty, goodness, and truth that we discover in church. More so than anywhere else, we find in our cozy parish transcendence, peace, support, stability, guidance, love, welcome, and total belonging. It is the one place in our world where it is truly safe to ask questions and where we can contribute our talents to the mission of God and feel valued.
The source and summit of this spiritual wealth is rooted in the Mass we celebrate every Sunday. Indeed, “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 10).
That’s why I’m so excited about our new Lenten message series that we’re calling, Mass Communication. Each week we’ll reflect on the various parts of the Mass and what they say about our faith. This series is a tremendous opportunity for all of us to deepen our understanding and appreciation of “the greatest prayer of the Church.”
Today, we welcome Bishop William Justice, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, who will speak at all the Masses on the often-missed richness of the simple Gathering Rite that we celebrate at the beginning of each Mass.
In the short gospel reading today, Jesus sums up the core of his message, when he urges his listeners to “[r]epent and believe in the gospel” because it “is the time of fulfillment.” God now is breaking into history to fulfill his promises and bring his whole plan to completion in the kingdom embodied in the person of Jesus.
After the Great Flood described in the first reading, “every creature—human and nonhuman—is assured that God is still the Creator and that the basic divine relationship to the world still holds.” (Fretheim, Terence. The Pentateuch. Abingdon Press, 1996, 82). Indeed, the flood itself, as St. Peter points out in the second reading, actually “prefigured baptism.” The covenant that God established in the post-flood account through the rainbow sets the stage for his great work of redemption in salvation history that began with Abraham in the Old Testament and culminated in the salvation offered to us through baptism by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
The Gathering Rite of the Mass rallies Christians every Sunday to celebrate this new covenant in Christ Jesus. In the solemn entrance procession, the singing by the assembly, the wafting of incense, the greeting by the presider, the Gloria and the opening prayer collecting the many strands of the people’s individual concerns, we recognize our unity as the gathered people of God. Our thoughts turn to the mystery of the liturgy through which we experience, once again, the unbreakable promises of God.
Father Roger Gustafson