The Revised Roman Missal: Mission, not Maintenance


“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  

This is one of four forms of dismissal to be used at the conclusion of the Mass, according to the revised Roman Missal.  Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to glorify God using the talents we receive in the Eucharist.  “Let everything that lives and breaths give praise to the Lord” (Ps 150:6).      

Now is the time to begin.  ‘Implementation Day,’ that is, the day the Roman Missal changes officially take effect, happens in two weeks.  Are we ready for our lives as Catholics to change in a way we may never see happen again?  Accepting the new translation has proven a challenge but it will strengthen how we worship.  The long-term preparation is nearly over.  Now we must assume the mission to which we have been called and work together to foster the most significant renewal in the Church since black and white television broadcast footage of Neil Armstrong playing golf on the moon.

For a year now I have been preaching about the changes to the Mass.  Perhaps my parishioners think my preaching has taken on a one-note quality or that I need a hobby.  Maybe video gaming or politics: some harmless vice to fritter away my time.  Yet I find imperative the reality that most of us will never see another moment like this in our lives.  I was not alive during the Second Vatican Council but grew into an awareness of the council and its aftermath when I entered Catholic School the same year John Paul II became pope.  The nuns and priests mentioned the council only as a matter of fact.  There was nothing to dispute.  They simply carried out the mandates and the teachings of the council in the classroom and in the church without bias.  They weren’t robots but believed Holy Mother Church provided richly for the desires of the human heart and for this they were blessed indeed.  These men and woman, so far as I can recall, were servants of the Church who made good use of the gifts and skills given to them by God.  Today’s changes are monumental because the Church has discerned that revisions are vital to the continued growth of the wealth on which God has bestowed the human race, the Eucharist.

This moment rings with remarkable irony.  We want something new and yet we are resistant to change.  Recently I ate lunch at Panera Bread.  On the way in I noticed a long line of people standing outside the video game store a few doors down.  Apparently some new game has been released and the line of gamers stretched the length of the strip mall and around the corner.  The gamers stood in the rain with hands shoved into their pockets and hoods drawn over their heads.  Whatever the merchant was hocking, the gamers found it worthwhile to stand on line in the November drizzle to purchase the latest merchandise.  By the time they got into the store the merchant might have sold out. 

The approach of Advent heralds longer lines at the confessional and standing room only in the naves.  The sight of the gamers made me think that, if more Christians knew and understood the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist they would be falling out the windows, elbowing each other to get close to the altar, closer to the source and summit of life, like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter year combined.  How excited we should be over revisions to the Missal, something not seen since the 1970 Missal of Paul VI.  The liturgy is the most important part of parish life.  If the Mass is treated with the dignity and respect it deserves than the spiritual and temporal life within the parish will grow strong.  The translation with elegant language and florid prayers will challenge us but we must be engaged in receiving the returns promised by God.

Jesus tells a parable about an unprofitable worker who does not make use of the talent given to him by a demanding employer.  The servant does not strive to meet his master’s expectations.  Instead he does nothing because he fears taking a risk.  By his inaction he rouses the anger of the master who punishes him for his laziness.  The talent the servant possess is taken from him and he is cast into darkness in shame.  He loses everything.  

Fears and apprehensions are understandable.  For forty years we have prayed the Paul VI missal and our responses are automatic.  We have been conditioned over two generations so that we listen passively to the liturgy week after week.  How alarming: because liturgy is familiar it has become void of its meaning, commonplace, routine.  The renewal freshens up our worship but these changes are not mere novelty.  They exist as a rudder to steer us down the river of life that pours into the oceans of Divine Mercy.  Our hearts are fickle and they change but the Word of God is firm.  Liturgy is important because it gives us perspective on our relationship with God relative to the Eucharist.  It is important to prepare for Mass so that we understand what we are receiving – Christ truly present in Body and Blood – and to enjoy a more meaningful experience.  Using the talents that God gives us helps us to know and love and serve him.  Maintenance is not enough.  The servant in the parable found that inactivity is not the safe option it appeared to be.

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away(Matt 25:28-30).


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