Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting More Out of the Mass - Part 4: Being Hearers of the Word

In the fourth part of this series, I would like to expand comments I shared recently at our parish Roman Missal sessions. This is another piece about the particular points of "internal participation" by the Assembly.  (Part 1Part 2, Part 3)

As we settle into the pews after the Introductory Rites for the Liturgy of the Word, the internal participation of Assembly members should shift from a posture of united prayer through Christ  to the Father to one of  receptivity and openness. Now, we listen.  The Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass says this about the Word of God in the Participation of the Faithful:
When God communicates his word, he expects a response, one, that is, of listening and adoring "in Spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23). The Holy Spirit makes that response effective, so that what is heard in the celebration of the Liturgy may be carried out in a way of life: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only" (Jas 1:22).  The liturgical celebration and the participation of the faithful receive outward expression in actions, gestures, and words. These derive their full meaning not simply from their origin in human experience but from the word of God and the economy of salvation, to which they refer. Accordingly, the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy increases to the degree that, as they listen to the word of God proclaimed in the Liturgy, they strive harder to commit themselves to the Word of God incarnate in Christ. Thus, they endeavor to conform their way of life to what they celebrate in the Liturgy, and then in turn to bring to the celebration of the Liturgy all that they do in life.  (6)
This, then, is not passive listening, but an actively engaged listening that requires the hearer to open him or herself up to the Word in a way that would allow them to become "conformed" - i.e. possibly/probably changed.  

The important role of the Holy Spirit in the proclaimed Word is further described here:
The working of the Holy Spirit is needed if the word of God is to make what we hear outwardly have its effect inwardly. Because of the Holy Spirit's inspiration and support, the word of God becomes the foundation of the liturgical celebration and the rule and support of all our life.
The working of the Holy Spirit precedes, accompanies, and brings to completion the whole celebration of the Liturgy. But the Spirit also brings home to each person individually everything that in the proclamation of the word of God is spoken for the good of the whole gathering of the faithful. In strengthening the unity of all, the Holy Spirit at the same time fosters a diversity of gifts and furthers their multiform operation. (9)
"...brings home to each person individually..."  - that means the Word is, with the help of the Spirit, actively seeking YOU.  Next time you go to Mass, remember that during the proclamation of the Word, God's Word is alive and active - and a bit like a heat-seeking missile - targeted to the most vulnerable parts of your life - the ones most in need of conforming to what we celebrate at Mass. 

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