B Cycle – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
Each week in our church bulletin, we publish the readings for the following Sunday. They are for your own preparation to encounter God before and during mass. The reason we should be reading them before we come to mass is because Liturgy has been defined as the “work of the people.” However, we seem to limit our participation to being present as opposed to being prepared. Being present means we show up and the truth is we can go through the motions even if we are not engaged. We can sing, we can respond when it is required, and we stand and sit when we are required to. But the real issue is has being present impacted us, do we feel the presence of God and do we hear his words challenging us.
God can and does break through to each of us when we are in His presence so I am aware that God’s desire is to have us respond but if we are mentally absent, we can miss his attempts to speak to our hearts.
What I am also aware of is God wants to touch us through every aspect of what we do each Sunday. The songs can touch us and move us to feel the presence of God. The prayers of the church are to be our own prayers and can move us to enter them as if we were saying them in the presence of God. Everything we do leads us to moments where we should have an encounter with God. There are two moments when we should be so internally impacted it is as if we are transported into the presence of God and stand before him as did every individual in the scriptures. Those two moments are during the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Meditating on the scriptures before mass helps us to prepare for that encounter. If we take the time before mass to read the readings for that Sunday and spend time reflecting on what they are saying to us, we are ready to respond in the totality of the mass.
The scriptures are God’s revelation of himself, and they not only teach us how to respond but reveal to us God’s plan for our lives. Paul in today’s Epistle tells us, once we come to the conviction that our sins have been forgiven by Jesus’s death on the cross, we understand how much God loves us.
What does this realization of our sins being forgiven do for us? It frees us from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), meaning we cannot do anything to earn salvation by strict adherence to laws and rituals. Instead, we become aware of how to live our salvation by responding with gratitude to God for the forgiveness of our sins.
Paul is reminding us of this because he refused to accept Christ as the Messiah until that day, he received forgiveness. Paul without even asking for forgiveness had an encounter with Christ we all need to have. That is another reason we should prepare ourselves before coming to mass.
Paul in today’s Epistle, tells us we do not really know Christ before that awakening happens to us. Paul describes his understanding of Christ before his encounter with Christ as “knowing Christ in the flesh.” That describes our knowledge also. We know things about Christ, until that moment when we have our own encounter with Christ and have him touch our hearts. Until that moment happens, we depend on our faithfulness to define our holiness. That means we are skeptical and doubt the promises of God to forgive us.
But when we begin to grasp the totality of forgiveness of sin by Christ’s death and resurrection, we like Paul are changed. Knowledge of Christ will no longer be an intellectual knowledge, but it will become an experience of forgiveness which was felt by the prodigal son and by Paul himself. It is that experience which will change us into “new creations” in Christ.
We will from that moment on become active in seeking the mind of God and always feel the presence of God, especially during the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We will hear the words of the epistles and gospel and those words will burn in our hearts. We may even hear God’s voice speaking to us during the words of a homily that are directly coming to you from the mouth of God instead of from the homilist. You will discover the richness of worship during mass and will embrace Christ in the Eucharist and feel his presence within you as you open your mind, heart and yes even as you receive him in your hands.
Mass is designed be more than just something you do. It becomes something you are looking forward to doing for you are joining people who are giving grateful thanks to a God who sent his only son into the world so we may have life and have it more abundantly.
You will discover Christ is always with you even in the storms of our life and you will discover a spiritual growth that keeps revealing the depth of God’s love for you. You will discover God has more in store for you than you ever imagined, and you will discover miracles are happening every day because God is in our land and your faith is now growing because God is at work in your life and in the world.