Sunday, October 25, 2015
When a priest presides at the Mass he has three objectives: First, to offer the Mass in union with and for the good of the whole Church; Second, to offer the Mass reverently; Third, to offer the Mass for a particular intention, such as the repose of the soul of someone who has died.
Right before Mass begins, our announcement reader tells us for whom this Mass is offered. These most frequently are the deceased members of our parish family, but on occasion the Mass is offered for someone’s birthday or anniversary, or for someone who is facing a particular trial in life.
Praying for the dead began long before the early stages of Christianity. The earliest Scriptural reference to prayers for the dead comes in the second book of Maccabees, written some 150 years before the birth of Christ. The book tells how Judas Maccabee, the Jewish leader, led his troops into battle. When the battle ended he directed that the bodies of those Jews who had died be buried. As soldiers prepared their slain comrades for burial, they discovered that each was wearing an amulet taken as booty from a pagan
This violated Jewish law and so Judas and his soldiers prayed that God would
forgive the sin these men had committed (II Maccabees 12:39-45). Temple
This is the first indication in the Bible of a belief that prayers offered by the living can help free the dead from any sin that would separate them from God in the life to come. It is echoed in the New Testament when St. Paul reminds us that Jesus is the “Lord of the living and the dead” (II Timothy 4:1).
The cavelike tombs under the city of
which we call catacombs, bear evidence that members of the Roman Christian
community gathered there to pray for their fellow followers of Christ who lay
buried there. By the fourth century,
prayers for the dead are mentioned in Christian literature as though they were
already a longstanding custom. Rome
Praying for the dead also has roots in our belief in the communion of saints. We who are living often assist each other through prayers and other forms of spiritual support. Christians who have died continue to be members of the communion of saints. We believe that we can assist them by our prayers, and they can assist us by theirs.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
The deacon says, “For our Holy Father and all the leaders of the Church, we pray to the Lord.” And all of us immediately know to respond by saying: “Lord, hear our prayer.” This form of prayer was new to Catholics after the Second Vatican Council, but now the response is almost automatic. The danger with automatic responses, of course, is that we tend to forget the deeper meaning of what we do and say.
The petitions that follow the Creed are called the Prayers of the Faithful or the General Intercessions. Each name tells us something important about this prayer.
It’s called the Prayer of the Faithful because this prayer is said by those who are baptized. As Christ prayed for the good of the people, so we are called to offer prayers and intercessions for the needs of all people today.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that this prayer generally includes four main categories of intentions: “for the Church, for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world, for those burdened by any kind of difficulty and for the local community” (#70). There may be more than one petition in any of those categories, but these general areas remind us that the prayer is to be universal in scope. It seeks to address the needs of all people, near and far. Thus the prayer is also called the General Intercessions – because they are general in nature.
While they are general in scope, the petitions are also current and local. They address the needs of our world in our own time, and they reflect local needs as well as global ones. The rest of the prayers at Mass are prescribed in the official books – we are not free to rewrite or create them. In the Prayers of the Faithful, in contrast, we are expected to write our own – otherwise they could not reflect what is happening at this particular time in this particular place.
But what do we mean when we say, “We pray to the Lord?” This statement requires us to remember that the Church teaches that we are the Body of Christ. When we ask Christ to care for the ill, or end war and poverty, we are also taking on the commission of doing so ourselves. We are not passive. We understand that faith is a verb and we are all called to action when we say, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Every time we’ve prayed the Creed we’ve professed our belief in the “Marks of the Church.” The essential characteristics or “Marks” that distinguish the true Church from other groups are expressed in our statement of belief in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
In the first article of the Creed we express our belief in One God who is undivided and indivisible. Our expression of belief in
does not deny
diversity. Nothing in the New Testament
suggests that uniformity is an ideal.
The Second Vatican Council in their document The Light of the Nations
teaches us that the Church shines forth as “a people made one with the unity of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” One
We say of the Church that it is “holy” because there is holiness both of and in it. We do not claim that the church is holy because we, collectively, are a holy, sinless people. The Church’s holiness is the expression of divine love that will not allow itself to be defeated by human willfulness and weakness. The Church is not holy because of us, but in spite of us.
The word “catholic” derives from a Greek phrase that means “on the whole.” The first recorded use of the word seems to have been from St. Ignatius of
in the early 2nd Century when he wrote, “Where the bishop appears, there let
the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic
Church.” He was saying that the church
had reality, life and power only to the extent that it formed part of the
universal church in union with its spiritual head. When we speak of being catholic we are saying
“the Church is one, not a union of parts but a unity of many.” Antioch
The last Mark of the Church is that we are “apostolic.” As
said in his letter to the Ephesians, “You form a
building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with
Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”
The apostles were first and foremost what Jesus refers to them as being,
“witnesses.” Our faith is built upon the
Apostles, who witnessed to what they had seen, heard and experienced. St.
When you put these four Marks together we can see that the Church is from God and for us.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
When the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit it uses a variety of metaphors and images to describe the Spirit’s activity in the world. But even the word “Spirit” is a metaphor. The term began as an image rather than a concept. Spirit is the modern translation of the Greek word “pneuma” which names invisible forces that are real without being tangible and, though intangible, are felt without people being able to see or control them. Pneuma is the word for wind – the fresh breeze of a spring day or the fury of a tornado. Pneuma is also breath – the breath of life that gives life. Whatever image we use, spirit implies something dynamic – energy, activity, life.
In the Creed we say with firm conviction that the Spirit is the “Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” By doing so we are saying that the Spirit is also God – in the same way that the Son is God. But this one phrase, while making a unifying statement about who God is – is the divisive statement between the Latin Church, of which we are members and the Orthodox Churches.
The original language of the Creed, still maintained in the Orthodox churches says that the Spirit comes from the Father only. The statement we in the Latin Church recite is that the Spirit comes from both the Father and the Son. This idea began in the 8th Century in
and within a few hundred years had swept through the . Pope Benedict the ninth had the phrase added
to the Creed and recited in churches in the 11th Century. Western Church
Both the Latin and the Orthodox churches are endeavoring to do the impossible – describe God – so neither can be exactly correct. Both are mankind’s attempt to put a handle on God. The Latin Church says, “three persons in God” and the Orthodox says, “one God in three persons.” By doing so we emphasize the unity of the divine nature while the Orthodox look at the individual persons and emphasize how they function in perfect unity.
However we describe the Spirit, we are saying that it is the Spirit we acknowledge when we say, “with the Father and the Son He is adored and glorified.”