Saturday, November 19, 2011

The End that is A Beginning: 34th Week of the Liturgical Year, November 20-26, 2011

Daniel chapters 1-7; Luke, chapter 21.


Sunday, the 34th Sunday of the Year and Feast of Christ the King, begins the last week of the liturgical year. Liturgically, the Church’s “New Year” begins with the first Sunday of Advent, when we begin to focus explicitly, in anticipation, on the event with which Christian time begins: the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Immersed in Christ Reflections this week review and bring to a conclusion a year of formation. Every day we have focused on drawing out of the readings what helps us to understand and enter fully into the mystery we celebrate at Mass. By now we should all be alertly conscious of the five mysteries that are presented in turn during the Eucharistic celebration. We should have acquired the habit of actively celebrating and embracing them during the liturgy. This is what the bishops asked for in Vatican II:

It is very much the wish of the Church that all the faithful should be led to take that full, conscious, and active part in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a redeemed people,” have a right and are bound by reason of their Baptism.

All those who have read and put into practice the Immersed in Christ Reflections for the past year have been formed to do this. They have learned how to enter into the five mysteries of Baptism as they are celebrated, one after another, in the Mass.

This is an experience of the New Evangelization that the last four popes have been calling for. They say we have not truly “heard” the Good News. It has not been effectively preached to us. We have not really been “evangelized” (i.e. told the Good News).

The key to the New Evangelization is to re-affirm — to explain and show people how to experience — what was lacking or “dumbed down” in the religious instruction we received. What was not brought into focus for us was the mystery embodied in every doctrine we profess, every sacrament we receive, every action we are called on to perform; and above all, in every celebration of Eucharist.

A “mystery” is “a truth that invites endless exploration.” Catholics who think they have “learned their religion” have misunderstood everything they were taught (probably because it was not taught). If they are not actively exploring the truths of their faith, they don’t know they are “mysteries.” They think they have “heard” the Good News, so to them it isn’t news any more. That means they never heard it.

Faith formation is not the same as instruction in the faith. Formation is “reiterated instruction combined with insistent intentionality” — in other words, we have to keep telling people the truth until it sinks in (and then, because it is a mystery, it will be in them “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”); and we have to keep urging and showing them ways to live it out in action.

That is the guiding principle and goal behind the Reflections offered each year by Immersed in Christ. Next year we will take you through the same deep mysteries of Baptism as they are found in the prayer Jesus taught us to say: the Our Father.

“Go: the Mass is ended.” And just begun.

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