The characters in the Scriptures for this week experienced a clear call from God. Elisha was plowing in the field when the prophet Elijah “threw his cloak over him.” Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem and called someone to follow, and reminded him that the decision would radically change his life. And St. Paul wrote to the Galatians that all of us are called for freedom and to serve one another.
We often think of the call in faith to live in relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. We responded to that call (or our parents did for us) in baptism. We might also consider our vocation in life — that God has called us to marriage, the single life, to priesthood or to religious life.
But in addition to those life-changing calls, we experience a call from God each week to come together with others who believe in and love the Lord. Our liturgical assembly each Sunday is not like any other kind of gathering. It is not simply a group of like-minded people coming together.
The liturgical assembly is a gathering of faith-filled people called together by God, and our participation should radically change our lives. In this assembly, Christ and the church are present. The Constitution on the Liturgy reminds us that our gathering for worship is the outstanding means by which we express in our lives and witness to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the church (SC 2).
As an exercise of Christ’s priestly office, the liturgy is the action of Christ and his body, and it is the most important thing we do all week. With Christ, we offer to the Father the one sacrifice offered on Calvary and we are able to be present to that great mystery through sign and symbol.
As members of the liturgical assembly, we all have a special ministry. The priest stands “in the person of Christ” and leads us in prayer and offering. Lectors proclaim the Word of God, acolytes assist the priest, deacons proclaim the Gospel and serve at the altar, and extraordinary ministers share the body and blood of the Lord. But all within the liturgical assembly are called to participate externally and internally — to listen and respond, to sing and to pray, and to join our minds and hearts with Christ in this great act of Thanksgiving.
There are also outward signs of our unity and participation. Common posture is a sign of unity and expresses our sense of being a community (GIRM 42). As we sing and pray together, we realize that we are not alone. In our midst, God’s Word is proclaimed in faith and listened to with faith (GIRM 29). At the altar we join Christ in acknowledging the works of God and in offering the sacrifice in the Eucharistic prayer. We exercise our priestly role as well by offering prayers for the needs of the church and world and by asking for forgiveness from sin. Together we express our love for one another and pray for peace and unity. (GIRM 82).
Perhaps our preparation for Mass this week might include an awareness of and a renewed commitment to the effort and energy that real participation and a sense of unity in the liturgical assembly requires.
Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay.