Friday, September 8, 2023
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Words! The Mass is full of words. It is easy to get lost in or worse to ignore all those words. Yet, Saint John, at the beginning of his Gospel wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is THE WORD of God.
So, when we hear words being read to us at Mass, words from the Old Testament and the New Testament, they really are all words about the one Word, Jesus himself. There are many other words used at Mass. In fact, many of them have Scriptural roots and connections.
But for now, my sisters and brothers in Christ, let us focus on those readings we hear every Sunday as we embark upon Week 13 of On the Road to Emmaus.
Words have power. That’s certainly true of the words of the Mass. Think of it this way: in the beginning of the Book of Genesis we read: “Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light,” (Genesis 1:3). God spoke a word and it was effective. So too with his very Son, the eternal Word spoken by the Father. In fact, any words spoken by the Father really were all about the eternal Word, the Son of God. The Father has never spoken a word which was not his Son.
When we hear the readings at Mass, our ears need to hear all those words as about the Son of God, just as they were intended to be heard. Those words have a power which seeks to change our lives. We must train our ears to hear as well as the ears of our hearts to be grasped by those words, by that one Word, Jesus. Jesus stood up one day in his home synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah and concluded with: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). We continue the synagogue practice of reading from the Scriptures.
Except for the Sundays after Easter, at every Sunday Mass our first reading is from the Old Testament, readings which Jesus would have heard. Even these testify to Jesus himself as he once told his opponents: “You search the scriptures because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf” (John 5:39).
I know that sometimes this might be difficult to discern, but let us take Jesus at his word. As we hear these ancient readings, let us hear the voice of the Father speaking about his Son. The Church has chosen the specific first reading to complement the Gospel reading for the day. On Easter Sundays our first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel is from Saint John.
Our second reading every Sunday is from the Letters of the New Testament plus readings from Hebrews and the Book of Revelation. These might seem simply to talk about Jesus and the life we are to lead in following Jesus, but they really mean to have us become Christ in our own day and age. These readings often have little to do with the theme of the Gospel or the first reading, but they do show us how we are to “put on” Christ.
Finally, the Gospels are divided into a three-year cycle: A (Gospel of Matthew), B (Gospel of Mark and many selections from the Gospel of John), and C (Gospel of Luke, which we are hearing this year, 2022). So, each year we follow the ministry, the life and death and resurrection of the Lord.
At the end of the readings, the Lector proclaims, “The Word of the Lord.” We respond, “Thanks be to God.” May we encounter Christ every Sunday through these holy words.
And so, to this week’s challenge. Let’s go full-circle, back to where we began today: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal is the official, detailed Vatican document governing the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Rite. On the section relating to the Creed it states that all the faithful – clergy and lay – should make a profound bow during the words: “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man”.
What’s a profound bow? A profound bow is a bow of the body and not just the head. What is more, the General Instruction adds that on the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all the faithful should not just bow but genuflect at that same passage in the Creed.
So that’s my challenge to you this week: Make a profound bow during the Creed at Holy Mass each time we say together: “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man”.
Such a bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. For us this is Jesus Christ, God made man, truly present in the Holy Eucharist. So, until next week, God bless you all.
Assuring you of my prayers, I am sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing