You have or you will notice that the sanctuary of our Church has been reorganized. The Blessed Sacrament has been returned to the side altar where it was previously located to help us see what is essential in our Liturgical Celebrations!
The mass is divided into two parts – the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Together they make up one act of worship. They are of equal importance. The documents of the Second Vatican Council and the General Instruction on the Roman Missal remind us of this.
The Presider’s Chair is at the back of the Sanctuary. The priest presides over the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The altar and the ambo have been shifted to create a balance in the Sanctuary and to reflect what we know and believe. At our liturgy Jesus is made manifest in the Presider of the Liturgy (Bishop/priest), in the Word of God, in the Body/Blood of Jesus and in the People gathered (physically/virtually).
The physical lay out of our Church Building can help us to see this easily or not. If there are too many items, then our eyes wander as they seek to find a focus.
We will continue to work at creating a simple environment for our Liturgical Celebrations.
In our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel the Lord challenges the people of Israel. They complain that the ways of the Lord are unfair. The Lord’s thinking goes like this:
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the chief priests and the elders a story about a father with two sons – one promises to go to work and does not. One refuses to go to work and then does go to the vineyard. The chief priests and elders are invited to think about who does the will of the Father!
The story concludes with Jesus warning the chief priests and elders that sinners are changing their hearts and doing what God asks them to do…they have seen it and so far, have done nothing to change their behavior. What do you think?
In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi, we hear Paul invite them to have the same mind as Christ Jesus – what that means for Paul is looking to the interests of others and not to your own interests. He then reminds them of what Christ has done. Christ acknowledged his relationship with God the Father. He surrendered and lived completely for God the Father – he did what the Father asked him to do.
How do these readings connect with us?
If you watch TV, surf the Internet, are engaged in social media, read the newspaper or listen to the radio, read the flyers that come from politicians with any of the political parties, listen to conversations at Coffee Row, listen to school teachers and priests we hear the message – take care of your SELF – your physical health, your mental health, your social health. Make sure you take care of yourself before you take care of others. Advertisers or marketing agents are good at appealing to that part of us which is concerned about being successful, beautiful, rich, happy, or the best at what we do. This is all good. Using our talents and resources to excel is a good thing. Making sure that we are successful and working hard to be successful – these are good things.
To complete the story however we need to listen to the scriptures of today.
Life is not just about us and what we want, what we desire, what we need, what we hope for. Life is also about looking out for those who do not have what we have. There is a lovely quote that my niece passed on to me, “When you have all that you need, do not build a wall; build a longer table.”
Sacred scripture invites us to think beyond our SELF. Fulfilling my religious obligations is good but it is not enough. I must also deal with my sin. Appearing nice (saying yes and doing no) is not enough. Lacking respect and then doing the right thing is not enough! We need to think about what is enough. We need to put our words and our actions together. Putting our words and actions together has very real consequences for those who are struggling and in need.
This week the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops invite us to think beyond our parish, our deanery, and our diocese by inviting us to contribute to the Needs of the Church in Canada. They invite us to think about the Church in Canada and the needs of people we do not see and do not think about. We are invited to share our blessings with them.
Next week we will kick off the Diocesan Appeal. Once again, we will be invited to think beyond ourselves, our parish, and our deanery; we will be invited to think about our Diocese.
All of that to say that Paul’s invitation to look to the interests of others is very real. We often struggle to look beyond ourselves. It takes practice.
Jesus says to the chief priests and elders, ‘What do you think?’ What might I answer if I Jesus asked me that question?
Am I respectful? Do I put into action what I believe? Do I support life in all ways? Are my words and actions inclusive? Do I welcome the stranger/the migrant and the refugee? What priority do I give to caring for the earth?
Responding to the gospel, let us be honest with ourselves and with others. Let us move beyond our SELF to greet, welcome, and bless the OTHER!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI