It is the day we all have been waiting for. Yes, it is the big Super Bowl
football game in the United States, but for all of us it is the Sunday before
“farewell-Flesh” Tuesday and the beginning of Lent. Is it not a good
day to figure out what we will give up?
We are invited to pray about just what we will give out rather than give
up. There are good things to do in order to bring Christ’s light into this
world and our parts of it. We continue last-week’s theme of reflecting upon
just what do holy people, “the blest” do.
We can pray in preparation for this liturgy and for Lent by rejoicing in
all that God’s grace does through our doings. We can pray about the difference
between the “gloom” of self-centeredness and the joy of being people of the
Immediately before the verses we hear in our First Reading we read a direct
challenge from God about the nature of the “fasting” the people of Israel
were practicing. Looking sad, lying in sackcloth is not what pleases
God, but rather freeing the oppressed and undoing the wrongs done to the poor.
What we do hear is a list of actual deeds which when done will give voice
to the penitent’s prayer.
These deeds which will form a section of Matthew’s famous “Last Judgment”
speech, here form the way of one’s returning to God’s favor. The “darkness”
is the separation from God. The “light” is the union one experiences by reversing
the works of darkness. Feeding the hungry brings light to the person
doing the feeding. Keeping food to one’s self results in the estrangement
which darkness brings.
For Isaiah actions speak louder than idle words and self-indulging acts
of mortification. The true penitential actions bring light and peace to and
then through the person seeking reunion with God. God hears the cry of the
poor and then the cry of those who reach out beyond themselves to the poor
of all kinds. God is close to the broken-hearted and close to those who heal
The Gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount which begins with
the Beatitudes from last-week’s liturgy. It can certainly sound like
Jesus is giving His disciples a grand pat on the back and telling them what
a great group of fellows they are. We use often the phrase about somebody’s
being “the salt of the earth.” This means they are solid, faithful, wise,
and at home with themselves. Perhaps Jesus is schmoozing them a little bit
in preparation for all He will ask of them. Jesus wants their goodness
to be shared and above all seen. Their goodness is given them from the goodness
of God and God wants to be known.
I now take a great risk. I want to redesign a part of the liturgy. I know
this might frighten some and give relief to others. Before preparing
to report me to the local liturgical police, remember, this is a Reflection,
not a rebellion.
After the Eucharist has been shared and before purses and children are being
snatched up; after the Communion Prayer has been recited, but before the Final
Blessing, the Celebrant moves to the back of the church. Ushers have been
placed strategically at other exits to prevent escape. The Celebrant then
proclaims that the “mass is not ended!” The people then turn to see if the
celebrant has lost his book or his mind. The Celebrant then says that nobody
is leaving here without their publicly declaring how they are going to spice
up and light up their parts of the world. The Celebrant will ask how they
each are going to bring Jesus into focus by not hiding His face. Then the
Celebrant will profess also how God’s light is going to shine through the
Celebrant’s deeds of salt and light.
When everyone has finished, then the Celebrant will offer the Final Blessing
and again with a loud voice proclaim that the liturgy part of the Mass is
over, but the acting-out of the Eucharist is never to end. The Celebrant might
say, “Now go in peace to live the Eucharist.” Even the ushers will have to
say their part of how they are going to do their part.
These readings are so perfect for our preparing for the doings of Lent.
Though my little suggestions for liturgical reform will go unnoticed, we
can privately or with our families and friends share how we are going to
be the Bread of Life by “giving out” for Lent and maybe it will be such a
joyful way of revealing God’s goodness to us that our times of gloom might
be less. Fasting from might be personally good for us. Reaching towards will
be personally very good for the Body of Christ.
There He bides in bliss
Now, and seeing somewhere some man do all that man can do,
for love He leans forth, needs his neck must fall on, kiss,
and cry, “O Christ-done deed! So god-made-flesh does
Were I come o’er again” cries Christ “it should be this.”
G. M. Hopkins, S.J. 1885