03 June 2013

Putting Yourself in the Mass

Solemnity of Corpus Christi
            It was not uncommon, in medieval art, for the painter to put himself into his work of art.  From what I have heard, one of the faces on the back wall of the Sistine Chapel, in the great mural The Final Judgment is the face of Michelangelo.  Caravaggio put himself into most of his famous paintings.  And even if they don’t put their image into their paintings, a painter pours his or her heart and soul into creating a work of beauty, a work which shows forth the splendor of the truth.

            Today’s readings focus us in on offering what we have, of putting ourselves into what we are doing, no matter how little or how big.  The first reading from Genesis is the story where Melchizedek blesses bread and wine and offers them to God Most High, and then Abram offers him a tenth (or tithe) of everything.  The Letter to the Hebrews makes a big deal out of this event, because one greater blesses one who is lesser, and you only offer a tithe if there is a debt to be paid to another.  Now, Melchizedek must have been pretty important to make Abram, the Father of the Chosen People, the lesser of the two, and for Abram to offer Melchizedek a tithe.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews focuses in on Melchizedek’s name, which means king of righteousness, and his country, King of Salem, from the root word, shalom, which makes him the King of Peace, and that, unlike almost everyone else in Scripture, there is no lineage.  Melchizedek just shows up without father or mother or ancestors.  For this reason, the Letter to the Hebrews states that Melchizedek was a foreshadowing of Christ, the true King of Righteousness and King of Peace, who is the co-eternal Son of the Father, without beginning.  When you throw in offering bread and wine, too, it is not hard to see why the author equated the two. 
            And in the Gospel, there are only five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men, not to mention women and children.  But they are offered to Jesus who miraculously multiplies them so that it is enough, and not just enough, but enough to satisfy everyone. 
            And so we often talk about stewardship: sharing the time, talent, and treasure we have with the Church to continue the work of Christ.  Think of anything you like here at St. John or St. Thomas.  We can’t do it without people generously donating their time.  Think of anything you like here at St. John or St. Thomas.  We can’t do it without people coming together to use a diversity of gifts towards a common goal.  No one person has a monopoly on all the gifts necessary to preach Jesus Christ and His salvation.  Think of anything you like here at St. John or St. Thomas.  We can’t do it without people giving of their treasure to fund the staff salaries, the opportunities for retreats and programs, etc.  And the burden is not the laity’s alone to bear.  I also feel compelled to give to our parish each week, to the scholarship fund for St. Thomas Aquinas parish school, to the Capital Campaign we are in for the school, to DSA, and my list, probably like yours, goes on and on, even beyond this parish.
            But, as we celebrate Corpus Christi today, I want to ask you: do you put yourself in the celebration of the Mass?  Do you invest your energy when you come here each Sunday, or is it something to pass an hour on a Sunday morning?  I can tell you that, for me, celebrating Mass is exhausting.  Our sacristans and Mass coordinators and servers and tell you that it’s not uncommon for me to yawn out of fatigue after the first Mass and before the second.  Why?  Because each time I celebrate Mass, I try to pour myself in what I am saying or chanting and doing.  I try to bring all of who I am, and when I offer all of me, it can be exhausting.
            Because we are all members of the priesthood of the faithful, we have a priestly office, even if it isn’t the same as the ministerial priesthood.  All of us baptized are invited by Holy Mother Church to offer who we are to the Father with the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yes, we pass the basket to collect our treasure.  Yes, we bring up bread and wine.  But united with that bread and wine is supposed to be all of who we are.  Did you have a crummy week where nothing seemed to go right?  Offer it to God, united with the bread and wine as you silently listen to the words of Jesus offering His Body and Blood to the Father.  Did you have a great week where everything was just how you wanted it?  Rejoice and thank God by offering it united to the bread and the wine.  This morning, eight of our parish children have the opportunity to offer their excitement, and maybe a little nervousness, with that bread and wine, as they prepare to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest and Victim for the first time.  All of us, no matter what our age, vocation, occupation, or race, can put ourselves into the Paschal Mystery and offer ourselves to God.    As Lumen gentium, 34 from the Second Vatican Council stated:

all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Pour yourself into this, and every Mass.  Make it not just a routine, but a purposeful time to unite yourself to the Lord by offering your lives with the bread and wine, which will be given back to you as the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Put yourself into the beautiful work of art that the Mass is.