Grow in holiness from worship

By | August 24, 2011

Paul’s admonition to the Romans in the second reading reminds us of the second purpose for gathering together to celebrate liturgy. “Offer your body as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

We gather not only to worship God in praise and thanksgiving, the first purpose, but also for our sanctification — our growth in holiness. This kind of growth requires that we be changed or transformed to see events, people and objects as God sees them to think in a new way.

The Scriptures proclaimed at Mass remind us of God’s way of thinking and the way of life that we are called to live. They also encourage and challenge us. We rehearse the actions that speak of God’s kingdom with the hope that we will live the same kind of actions in our daily lives. During the general intercessions we are reminded of the many needs in the world and our community. Perhaps we may begin to address those needs in a real way. As we receive Communion, we are united more closely with Christ and with one another.

We also pray for our transformation during the Mass. After the bread and wine have been consecrated we call upon the Spirit. For example, in the third eucharistic prayer the priest prays in our name, “Grant 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.” The prayer after Communion asks that we receive the spiritual benefits of the Communion we have received.

The change that we ask for is not just an intellectual one. It is at the level of our hearts. The music, particularly the hymns we sing, helps our prayer reach to this level. The words we sing place images and thoughts in our minds. The music, if it is well-written, moves our emotions and thus touches our hearts.

At Mass we receive God’s grace so that we may grow in holiness. Little by little, we are formed in the desire to follow Christ, even to the point of “denying ourselves and taking up our cross” as Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of the day. As we change, we become more whole, more complete, undivided, healed of our wounds in heart and spirit. After all is said and done, this second purpose points back to the first. For the best praise we can offer God is to be fully, wholly the people God created us to be.

Johnston is the former director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc.

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