Look again

By: Fr. Dominic Garramone, OSB

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 24

Nehemiah 8:2-4a,5-6,8-10; Psalm 19:8,9,10,15;
1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

ONE OF the significant ritual changes of the last few decades is the increased reverence shown to the Book of the Gospels at parish Masses. In most parishes at Sunday Mass, the Gospel book is carried in procession by a deacon or lector and enthroned reverently upon the altar.

The one who proclaims the Gospel, whether a deacon or a priest, honors the book by holding it high before the assembly and carrying it slowly to the ambo, often accompanied by servers with candles. On more solemn feast days, the Gospel book might also be blessed with incense before the Gospel is proclaimed.

In the first reading for this Sunday, we hear about a similar scene. The occasion is the restoration of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile. Ezra the priest opens the scroll of God’s law (most likely the book of Deuteronomy) and holds it high for all to see. The people cry out, “Amen! Amen!” as they bow low to the ground, recognizing that the Lord is present in the proclaimed word.

THE CATECHISM teaches that at the eucharistic celebration, God is present in the word, in the consecrated bread and wine, in the presence of the priestly minister, and in the gathered assembly. The reverence we show to the Gospel book is one of the ways we demonstrate our belief in that divine presence. Similarly, our actions as we receive the body and blood of Jesus should demonstrate an even greater reverence.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the reverence we should also demonstrate toward the body of Christ made present in the gathered assembly. Comparing the church to a physical body, he reminds us that we cannot separate ourselves from the body, nor reject any one member. Rather we must remain united in our acceptance of the full body of Christ, and demonstrate that acceptance at our celebration.

If we try to sit as far away from others as possible at Mass, it could be a sign that we have missed the point of Mass altogether: “That we who are nourished by his body and blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit, in Christ.” As the Italian proverb reminds us: “You’ll never get to heaven if you want to go alone.”

IT ALL begins with respect. Re-spect: “to look again.” This week at Mass, look beyond the familiar ritual of proclamation and see the presence of the Word of God. Look again at the consecration and recognize the miraculous transformation of bread and wine into the Word Made Flesh.

See your pastor with new eyes, and try to discern his ministry “in persona Christi.” Look to the people in your pew and see in them the honored members of the body of Christ.

And if there aren’t any people in your pew, move.

Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy.

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