Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Together at Mass

Together at Mass 12

“Go in peace …”

And so we come to the Concluding Rite. Just one more time we turn to the Missal to see what it has to say about this part of the Mass:

The concluding rite consists of:
a) the priest’s greeting and blessing which is sometimes expanded by the prayer over the people or other solemn form;
b) the dismissal which sends each member of the congregation to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord.

This concluding rite is very brief and to the point – the blessing and then the dismissal: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

Remember, the dismissal “Ite, missa est”, is the word from which we got the name we cherish – the “mass”. We are not simply being dismissed as at the end of a class. It is rather a ‘sending forth’, a ‘mission’ we each receive to carry with us the fruits of the eucharist into our everyday life – to go out to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord.

As we leave the assembly, as we each return to our everyday circumstances, we take something fresh with us. We have celebrated God’s commitment to us, the covenant God has established with us through the sacrifice of Christ; and we have renewed our own commitment to God. We have been guided by his word, and strengthened by his sacrament so that we may live more perfectly in the world as God’s holy people, members of the Body of Christ.

It is in relation to our daily lives that the full meaning of what we have been doing together at Mass becomes clear. What we have engaged in at Mass is now to be carried into life. To highlight some of the actions and to recall their meanings may be a fitting conclusion to our shared reflection on the Mass.

 

 

We Assemble

We come together with a sense of purpose, to become a worshipping community. This demands something from each of us, even before the Mass has started. We come to church with a deliberate intention of coming out of our shells and of joining with others in order to become a community. We recognise that simply being in church at the same time does not make us into a community . And so we come together with the intention of participating in this liturgy, that is in an act of worship which belongs to all of us, bound together in Christ. We are aware that, as members of the Body of Christ, we belong to each other, and we need and are needed by each other. It is for the good of others, not oneself alone, that we are present and active in this celebration. Without your presence and involvement, something is lacking.

So, we are invited to make a real personal effort to assemble in this spirit, by trying to be in church on time, by acknowledging the presence of other people, by watching out for any newcomers or visitors to our church to make them welcome, by wanting to be more perfectly and more visibly the Family of God, ready to listen to his word, and to share at his table.

 

We Listen

Reflect for a moment on your experience of a family celebration. Members of the wider family have assembled from far and wide. And before long the telling of old family stories begin, such as: “Do you remember when … ?” or “In granddad's day …” or “These are stories that Gran used to tell”. The different stories have been heard many times before, but they are retold, and will be retold many times more, because they are precious. This is our family story; this is our story. It is not only about the remembered past; our own individual stories are wrapped up in it. We celebrate our story.

At Mass we listen to the telling again and again of the many stories that make up our Family story. We listen to the story of God’s reaching out to the whole of humanity, through the stories of creation - the history of salvation - the life and teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus - the writings of the early Church. We remember that we are part of that same story. We listen to the Word of God, not as individual people but as members of the family. It is our story. Over and over again, in many different ways, we hear God say to us: “You are my dearly beloved people, and I am your God”.

 

We respond

We listen, even if at times without fully understanding, but happy to know that God has chosen to speak to us in this way. And we respond with our “credo” — we believe in God, we put our trust in God, we affirm our commitment to God and to a way of life in relation to God.

We have been listening to the many ways in which God has reached out to us in the past, and finally through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of his only begotten Son. By the power of the Holy Spirit we have been granted a share in the new life of Christ and drawn into the communion of the Church. We have become part of the story; our own individual stories are now wrapped up in it. And so we raise our voices and say: “Credo” – “Yes, – ‘Cor do’ – I give my heart to God”. I am part of the story of salvation.

 

We give thanks and praise

The concrete expression of our personal surrender to God’s love now follows as we join with Jesus, our Lord, in giving thanks and praise. During the Last Supper Jesus had commanded us to “do this in memory of me” and now, step by fourfold step, we do as he did on that night.

 — Jesus took the bread … took the cup
In the Preparation of Gifts we do as he did. We bring gifts of bread and wine, “fruit of the earth”, signs of God’s goodness to us, but also “work of human hands”, signs of our own self-giving to God. We offer ourselves, our hearts, minds and wills, our work, our entire life and our world, to become one with Jesus Christ’s offering of himself to the Father in sacrifice.

— Jesus gave thanks and praise
In the eucharistic prayer we join with Jesus in offering our prayer of thanks and praise to God, our appreciation for all that God is as God. We remember the words of the Missal: “the whole congregation joins Christ in acknowledging the works of God and in offering the sacrifice”. And at the heart of the eucharistic prayer we hear the words of Jesus spoken over the bread and wine, over the gifts through which we offer ourselves: “this is my body given for you… this is my blood poured out for you”. Our gifts are transformed to become one with the gift of Christ himself. So, through him and with him and in him we offer ourselves and consecrate our world to the glory of the Father.

— Jesus broke the bread and gave it
We prepare to receive the body and blood of Christ, first praying in the words he taught us, calling God “our Father”, and thus expressing the deep unity that binds us together as children of God, brothers and sisters of one family. In offering each other a sign of peace we express our commitment to live and to work for that unity in faith and love which belong to God’s kingdom and for which Christ prayed. Against this background we see the full meaning of the breaking of one bread of which we shall all receive: “it signifies that in communion we who are many are made one body in the one bread of life which is Christ”.

— Jesus said: take and eat … take and drink
Finally, in communion, we accept his invitation: “Take this and eat it, this is my body”; “Take this and drink it; this is my blood”; I give myself to you so that I may live in you and you in me, so that you and I may be one.
We receive him who is the Bread of Life, that we may be strengthened in his own divine, eternal life. Christ reaches out to each of us in personal and loving union.

But we do not eat and drink alone. Christ has invited us to come together to eat this one bread which is broken for us, to drink from this one cup which is poured out for us. He gives himself to us also to build and strengthen our togetherness; to nourish and deepen the unity among us; to be the cement that binds us together in the special relationship we have as his brothers and sisters, as children of his Father. We are members of his Body and when we receive him we receive each other; we are brought into communion with one another in him.

 

Living the Story

So, finally, we come to the concluding rite and the dismissal, remembering that it is really a ‘sending forth’, a ‘mission’ that we each receive to carry with us the fruits of the eucharist into our everyday life, to go out to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord. We have celebrated our Christian story, now we are sent out to live what we have celebrated.

In the readings we tell and re-tell the stories of our creation and our salvation; of the life and mission of Jesus our Saviour and his proclamation of God’s kingdom of truth and justice, of love and peace. We reflect on his life of service to those in need, always welcoming, liberating, healing, forgiving, feeding and bringing wholeness. We ponder the mystery of his death-resurrection, the sacrifice by which he conquered sin and opened the way to new life. Now it is time for us to go out to the world, to do as he did, to let Christ continue his loving presence and service of others through us.

We do not escape from the world by coming to Mass; rather we are affirmed in our Christian vocation to work through word and deed for the kingdom of God. In the bidding prayers we expressed our care for the world in which we live. It is now our task to live what we have prayed.

In similar manner, through gifts which represent our lives, we have consecrated our world to God. It is now time for us to bring the Good News of the kingdom into the concrete realities that constitute the world of our own homes and families, our neighbourhoods, places of work and of leisure, and into all our relationships.

We have given thanks and praise to God, sharing in Jesus’ own appreciation of the majesty of God, and of God’s presence in the world. In our confidence in the goodness of God, we look on the world he has made, a world which is blighted by sin, but called to its original harmony. Now strengthened by our celebration, we are ready to accept our own share in working for a better world.

In ritual commemoration we have re-presented the death-resurrection of Christ, the sacrifice by which the world has been saved. By sharing in that sacrifice we have shared too in Christ’s own commitment to the will of God. We now go out to live what we have celebrated. We accept that we are far from the perfection to which we are called, but we see in the constant renewal of our commitment the expression of our hope to grow in Christ. We are, after all, a pilgrim people.

In the rite of communion we have prayed as children of one Father, offered each other a sign of peace, shared in one bread broken for us and one cup poured out for us. In all of this we are drawn into communion with Christ and with each other in him. We now face the task of making that communion a reality - not in some folksy, good-chums-together sort of act, but in being a people united, with all the richness of our diversity, in shared faith, hope and love.

And now we are dismissed, sent out to express our faith, hope and charity, in our conviction about the goodness of God, in confidence that it is worth working for a better world, and in concern for others, especially for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised, on our own doorstep and in the far reaches of the globe.