Pope Francis in his recent letter Desiderio Desideravi gives a lot of attention to the Eucharist, but he also points out that we encounter Jesus Christ in the sacraments and in the church year. The liturgy of the church is our common prayer where, when we gather in his name, two or three of more, Jesus is in our midst.
Two tendencies endanger common prayer today, the pope says. One he calls neo-Gnosticism, the other neo-Pelagianism.
“The first, neo-Gnosticism, shrinks Christian faith into a subjectivism that ‘ultimately keeps us imprisoned in our own thoughts and feelings.’” (EG 94) We might say neo-Gnosticism shrinks the world into what I happen to be interested in now, what I’m doing, what’s going on in my life, what I think is good for me. Everything else doesn’t matter, or is too much to think about. The early gnostics dismissed much of the world as evil, and consequentially made the world too small.
Neo-Pelagianism cancels out the role of grace, the pope says. It leads us to believe we can do anything if we set my minds to it. I don’t need anything beyond what I can do with my own hands and my own mind. So why do I need God?
These two tendencies today endanger in a particular way our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist and the liturgy and our common prayer. In his letter later on, the pope recommends we study the liturgy and celebrate it the right way, but he stresses the importance of examining ourselves on those two tendencies.
The liturgy “frees us from the prison of a self-referencing nourished by our own reasoning and our own feeling” the pope say. It frees us from small-mindedness. “it does not leave us alone to search out the mystery of God. Rather, it takes us by the hand, together, as an assembly, to lead us deep within the mystery that the Word and the sacramental signs reveal to us. And it does this, consistent with God’s action, following the way of the Incarnation…” (18)
The liturgy follows the way of the Incarnation. How does it do that? One way is that it recognizes we human beings learn day by day. The liturgy is a daily school; it takes us by the hand day by day into a world of simple signs. It’s the most important school we go to.
We’re reading from chapters 11-12 of Matthew’s gospel this week which describes the growing opposition to Jesus after his initial ministry in Galilee. How can we face opposition in our own world if we don’t recognize Jesus faced opposition in the world he lived in?
This week we’re reading key passages from the Prophet Isaiah at Mass, the most frequently referenced Old Testament source in the New Testament, after the psalms.
There are some interesting saints this week. Today we celebrate St. Benedict, a founder of western monasticism, who brought a new way of Christian life into the church. Can he help us envision new forms of life in our church today”
We celebrate St. Bonaventure this week. He brought a new dimension to the early Franciscan movement. Are there new dimensions taking place in church communities today?
The liturgy leads us by the hand into the mystery of Christ. It’s a daily school for us and our community. That why we begin our prayers with prayers like this:“O God,come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.” Take me from my small world, into your great world. Take us from our small world, into your great world.
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and will be forever. Amen.”
A world much bigger than what we see now.