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YEAR OF FAITH: ACTIVE PARTICIPATION
Year of Faith 2012-2013
29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
As the Year of Faith commenced early this month on October 11, I find it fitting to start orienting our community about this celebration. At the opening Mass at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI strongly exhorted, “… I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this [the Year of Faith], is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man.” The “tension” which the Holy Father mentioned lies in making the beauty and truth of the faith relevant in our present time. Moreover, the yearning to announce Christ to contemporary man is something that we have to work more seriously given the rise of certain ideologies, which may not necessarily be truthful.
We are giving out flyers after all Masses this Sunday to give you good suggestions of what you can do to celebrate the Year of Faith more fruitfully (See link below for website). Bishop David Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin and an inductee in the Catholic Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame, offers “10 Ways Catholics Can Live the Year of Faith.” From our end as your ministers in this parish, we will try our best to explain to you some of the ways, if not all, to celebrate this momentous period of our Catholic Church throughout the year.
The FIRST WAY (my focus this Sunday) as pointed out by Bishop Ricken is to PARTICIPATE at Mass. If you are familiar with the documents of Vatican II, this clearly resounds the document, Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). In that document, the Council Fathers wrote these important words: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.”It is our right and duty to do so by reason of our baptism – the source where we are to derive the true Christian spirit (SC 14). Let me explain to you what active participation means and give you some suggestions on how we could do it:
1. It means one must be PRESENT in the ENTIRE LITURGY (not the middle of the Mass or towards the end of the Mass or not like when we watch a movie where we can just show up at the part of the movie which we missed out) meaning that one arrives EARLY enough to prepare for Mass and stays through the singing of the closing hymn. At times, we are so poor at this. We arrive late at Mass (10 or 15 minutes late). We listen to the choir as if we are listening to a concert! The reason why we provide the congregation with song booklets is for us to take part in the singing. Never mind if you are out of tune (just don’t overpower us as to distract the entire celebration). PUT YOUR HEART into the liturgical celebration by SINGING and by being TRULY PRESENT.
One time, I was outside the Church of St. Anthony in Oakley waiting for a couple to meet after Mass for dinner. During Holy Communion I saw a couple leaving the Church as they finished receiving communion. When the wife saw me, she said: “Oh my, Father caught us skipping Mass!” I mean, “really?” The Eucharist is divided into 4 principal parts, but those parts need to be given due reverence in its ENTIRETY not just the consecration; not just communion but the whole of it. Again, this is not a movie house, this is the CHURCH and must therefore be given due reverence that it deserves. Remember, we derive the true Christian spirit from it.
2. It means looking for the MESSAGE of the liturgical celebration. The beauty of our Catholic ritual is that, it is beautifully marked by liturgical seasons. Each season have their own mood, theological emphasis, and modes of prayer, which dispose us in the liturgical celebration. The ordinary time, “Ordinal” or the “counted weeks” – weeks which do not belong to the proper season; Advent, “adventus” or “coming” – in preparation for the coming of Christ, etc. And so, when we come to Mass, let us be conscious of our surrounding. What’s the color of the Sunday? What is the theme of the readings? What is the message of the Gospel? What does the priest want us to understand and do as action response?
Three boys are in the schoolyard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, “My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50.” The second boy says, “That’s nothing. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100.” The third boy says, “I got you both beaten. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon and it takes eight people to collect all the money!”
True or not, the MESSAGE of the entire liturgical celebration (not just the sermon) is so important to be pondered upon. It gives us inspiration; it gives us enlightenment; it aids us to a disposition, the true Christian spirit that we need as we celebrate the Eucharist as a CHURCH.
3. It means being CONSCIOUS of what WE DO when we gather to pray. In other words, it is NOT ENOUGH to simply SAY the WORDS of prayer. It is important that we are AWARE and CONSCIOUS of what those words convey. Just as when the priest says, “The Lord be with you” you respond, “And with your spirit.” What do those words mean? When you say, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name. For our good and the good of His holy Church,” do you clearly know what they mean?
There was a story about two best of friends in the name of Peter and Amen. Peter was a very pious Catholic while Amen the opposite in terms of piety. One day, Peter invited Amen to attend the Mass. Amen was very hesitant at first, but because Peter was very persistent, he also went anyway. At Mass, Peter participated actively while Amen, who was totally clueless of what’s going on, simply fell asleep at his seat. When the time of communion took place, they lined up with Peter receiving Communion first while Amen who was next in line observed what Peter would do. When the priest said to Peter, “The Body of Christ” he replied, “Amen” with full devotion. Amen, however, felt insulted as his name was called as if humiliating him in front of so many people. So to avenge himself, he moved forward to receive communion and when the priest said, “The Body of Christ,” Amen responded with conviction, “Peter!”
A laughing matter indeed! But, at times, we fall short with our participation that we end up like Amen. The Year of Faith is not a laughing matter; the Year of Faith is a momentous or glorious moment when we, as Catholics, are being called to take some time of reflection and nourish our faith with enough knowledge in order that, just like what the Holy Father said during the opening of this celebration, we may be able to “revive the positive tension and the yearning to announce Christ to contemporary man.” The first and initial step is to have a full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy. When this becomes second nature to us, it would be much easier for us to understand the succeeding ways as we live out the Year of Faith.
But what is faith to me? Faith is when I face myself on the mirror and say, “I AM BEAUTIFUL” regardless of what people say about me. Faith is when I believe in a powerful though invisible God. Faith is when I fight for the truth as it adheres to the Word of God. Faith is when I devote my time to commune with God and surrender my entire being to His greatness. Faith is when I profess the creed with conviction and never doubt its articles. Do you have such faith?
It is our hope that within the Year of Faith, you too, may come to make your own definition of FAITH not only as to what the Catechism would say about it, but as you experience it coming alive in your very lives.
God bless us all!