Mass: The Liturgy of the Word

Vatican Holy Thursday

Liturgy of the Word:

This is obviously the most scriptural part of the mass.

The bible does not simply talk about God: it is God’s own speech. We say that the scriptures are inspired by God, right? What does this mean? “Inspiration” comes from the Greek theopneustos, which means “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).

Vatican II document Dei Verbum:

“To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”

Hearing God’s words is a big deal. The people of Israel prepared themselves for three days before God spoke to them and gave them the covenant. But we already did this in the introduction of the mass, right? What parts were these?

The manner that we read scripture in mass is very similar to how the Jews did in the 1st century: they also read the Law and the Prophets during synagogue worship. There is evidence that these readings might have actually been in three-year cycles.

Our Sunday readings are in three year cycles- that means that every three years all of the major highlights of the entire bible are covered. And during weekday masses, there is a two-year cycle of readings. This means that the priest doesn’t just pick his favorite readings every Sunday. This means that the entire Church hears the same readings around the world every day, just as it is the same mass every day around the world.

 

First reading: Old Testament (or Acts during the Easter Season). What do you get from the Old Testament? We cannot completely understand Jesus and the New Testament without the Old Testament.

 

Responsorial Psalm: After hearing the first reading, we respond not with our own words of thanksgiving but with God’s inspired words of praise and thanksgiving in the Psalms. The “antiphonal” movement (call and response) format is taken from the Psalms themselves, some of them are obviously written in that way, and also from Jewish tradition. Psalm 136 obviously shows this antiphonal nature. Often we just repeat the first line.

 

Second Reading: from Epistles, Acts, or Revelation. Practical applications on how to follow the call of Christ.

 

Gospel: Why do we stand for the Gospel? Check out Neh 8:5, it is a reverent posture by the Jews as the Law was being read. We say Alleluia (except for during Lent), which means “Praise Yahweh!” or “Praise the Lord!” There is a procession to show the solemnity of the moment. We do a special sign of the cross (why?), crossing our foreheads, mouths, and hearts- we do this to consecrate our thoughts, words, and actions to the Lord, asking that this Word in the Gospel would always be on our minds, lips, and hearts. Remember, we aren’t just hearing what Jesus says and does with other people, we personally hear Jesus’ words spoken to us!

 

Homily: What is the point of the homily? It is to explain the Scriptural readings and draw applications for our lives. The word homily means explanation. And this isn’t just a Christian thing. In the Jewish tradition, check out what the Levites (what was their role? The priests of Isreal!) did. Neh 8:7-8. Jesus himself expounded on the scriptures, Luke 4:18-30, Mark 1:21. The homily, like the Gospel, must be given by a deacon, priest, or bishop. Why do you think that this is? The preaching must be a passing on of the Church’s apostolic faith, not just the private thoughts of an individual.

 

Creed: The Nicene Creed comes from the Council of Nicea in 325. Why is it important that we say this? It summarizes the story of the bible and is a powerful reminder to me of how important it is that our faith remains the same as the Apostles.

 

Finally, we have the prayer of the faithful, were there are general petitions. In these petitions, we exercise our priestly role, in participating in Jesus’ prayer for the whole world that we see in John 17. Other examples of our priestly role? Spiritual sacrifices. (1 Peter 2:1-5)

The Church is for You, too.

Ash Wednesday

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the season of Lent. It’s a very interesting day because it is the one day of the year when there is a physical sign that shows whether you are Catholic or not (technically you don’t have to be Catholic to receive the ashes, but you get the point). Many other religious traditions have more obvious ways to tell whether you practice a certain religion or not, but Christians in general basically just blend in- at least in how they dress (remember, modest is hottest!).

What I couldn’t help but notice was that despite the fact that over 1 billion of the 7 billion people, or about 17% of the world, are Catholics, and about 20-25% of students at the University of Illinois (10k of 40k students) are Catholic, out of everyone that I saw outside of mass, I saw maybe 10 Catholics with ashes on their foreheads. I have to admit, as an electrical engineering student, many of the students that I have class with and interact with are international and from Asia (South Korea, China, and India), so that defaults the percentages even lower than average for obvious reasons.

My point here is not that I’m better than anyone. My point is not that our society sucks. My point is not to judge others.

My point here is that as Catholic Christians, we cannot just sit around and be content with keeping the Gospel and the Church to ourselves, Jesus desires that all people would become a part of His Church! It is our duty, our obligation, to share it with as many people  as possible!

People are not saved by having ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. But they sure as heck can be saved by becoming a part of the Body of Christ, the Church!

I can’t help but notice that there are a boatload of difficulties in sharing the Gospel with others.

Relativism, a denial that absolute truth exists, is a fundamental stumbling block in this endeavor. When people don’t believe that truth about morality, faith, and God can be known, then they have no reason to think twice about them. They are left as matters of opinion. But what if Newton just treated his ideas about gravity as a matter of opinion instead of an absolute truth? What if Dr. Martin Luther King treated his conviction on the equality of the races as a personal belief, instead of an inherent truth? Nothing would have been done, and modern science and culture would have suffered from the consequences. We must always strive to come to know the truths of reality, while being respectful of others in the process.

Relativism also manifests itself in the idea that all religions are the same, or equal. This is a fun exercise for me, so here I go: Was the big bang the beginning of the universe? If it was, then something was created out of nothing. That is not physically possible. There must be a God to have started it all off. Is the universe’s fine tuning evidence for an Intelligent Creator? If you’re happy with the coincidence idea, check out the facts. This means that a mere entity as God doesn’t pan out, sorry Hindus and Buddists, no hard feelings. Was Jesus God? You can’t possibly be a Jew or a Muslim if you agree, you must be a Christian. The question that divides Muslims and Jews fundamentally is whether Muhammad was a prophet. Finally, did Jesus found a Church on Peter and promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it? As you can see, all of the great religions have  beliefs that are contradictory to the others. If you said yes to all of those questions, congratulations, welcome to the world of Catholicism!

Another obstacle that I notice is the emphasis on political correctness and fear of speaking about things that really matter. This is especially dangerous in a democracy. A democracy requires that the people of the nation are informed, but if the honest debate of ideas is shunned, the people will not be informed enough to make the best decisions, and there is opportunity for those in power to take even more control.

Despite these difficulties, I know that sharing the Gospel is completely and totally worth it. Thousands and thousands of men, women, and even children have given up their lives over the centuries for it. There isn’t anything more important. Faith isn’t just some “nice” thing, it is a way of life. The Catholic faith is a way of life taught to us by Jesus and His Apostles through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is an opportunity to live according to the truth in peace and joy even in trial.

It would kind of suck to be forced to believe something that isn’t true, wouldn’t it? I’m afraid that that is how many people look at Catholicism nowadays. But it is true! And living according to the truth is freeing! Why would you want to live for a lie? Sooner or later the truth comes to light. And the awesome news for us is that that truth is an infinitely loving God who wishes us to enter into an ever deeper relationship with Him!

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

On Lent

Jesus tempted

Lent is 40 days because we remember how in the Gospels that Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days before beginning His ministry (Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4: 1-11). In lent we also call to mind how Israel was stranded in the desert for 40 years after sinning against the Lord by worshiping idols before they could enter the Holy Land. Finally, we remember how before God revealed Himself to Israel during the Exodus, Israel as a whole had a time of purification.

In Lent, we fast and pray in solidarity with Jesus and similarly to our Jewish fathers in the faith in order to prepare for the the passion and resurrection of the Lord on Holy Week.

“Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual  house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:4-5

  • Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, which is the beginning of the 40 days of lent.
  • Ash Wednesday and every Friday of lent should be days of abstinence from meat.
  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (the last Friday of lent immediately before Easter) are also days of fasting. That means that you can have one regular sized (meatless) meal, but then two small other meals. No snacking. Juice/milk/ etc is fine.
  • We are challenged to do something to strengthen our faith during lent. There are a couple “levels” of doing this:
  • Level 1: giving up something that isn’t necessarily sinful, but is a bad habit, like TV or candy
  • Level 2: giving up something that is an occasion of sin, like certain movies or TV shows, drinking too heavily, etc
  • Level 3: giving up something you don’t have to give up out of love for God and to mortify yourself, like maybe giving up listening to music if you really enjoy music

I’d challenge you all to do something that is either “level 2” or “level 3”, because giving up ice cream again is really weak sauce, and how is that actually helping you grow?

See also: Lent

Signs of the Transition to Manhood

Lately I’ve been thinking more about what it is to be a man. We talked about it in bible study this week for much longer than I was expecting, and it was one of the better discussions I’ve had in a few weeks.

This got me thinking of some of the talks that I heard at SEEK Conference last month about manhood. Dr. Johnathan Reyes did such a great job of comparing the signs that differentiates a boy from a man, and I’d like to share them with you:

  • A boy is occupied by looking for fun. A man is occupied by his duties.
  • A boy worries about whether others like him. A man cares more about whether he is respected.
  • A boy is self-focused in all that he does. A man keeps his thoughts and gaze outwards, thinking of others first.
  • A boy chooses the most comfortable option. A man makes sure to choose to do the right thing.
  • A boy avoids responsibility. A man is responsible. In the business world, a man accepts the responsibility of owning a project.
  • A boy becomes discouraged and gives up. A man perseveres through trial.
  • A boy doesn’t change the environment that he is in. A man improves every environment that he enters.
  • A boy views women as objects, as a “collection of body parts.” A man sees women as the whole person and respects and honors them in what he says and does.
  • A boy needs rules to act uprightly. A man is self-disciplined.
  • A boy brags about his accomplishments. A man does not exalt himself.
  • A boy avoids commitment. A man’s word is good and he honors vows to death.
  • A boy is governed by his passions. A man is governed by the truth.

This is a challenging list. But I think that it is important that we challenge ourselves and hold ourselves to a high standard (see the self-disciplined part). Are you where you want to be? I know that it’s a struggle. It is much easier to work on your journey to manhood when you do it together with a good friend or two. Share your desire to grow to become a better man with one another. And don’t forget to pray! Ask God to help give you the grace to overcome sinful tendencies.

Make war on sin, and start living like a man. Turn this Tedashii song up!

Manhood and Mass

This week we started by talking about what it is to be a man. We had an excellent discussion, but unfortunately I can only put down my own notes.

What is it to be a man?

Being a man is more than just age and gender.

Some wise words by Michael K:

A man portrays humble confidence, often without words.

A man respects women and children, always taking the second place.

A man seeks to serve and make others a little more comfortable.

A man works on his faults daily so he can lead others better.

A man makes the hard choice that will benefit others in the long run.

A man is courageous and takes the lead when necessary.

A man loves others above himself.

A man is both a strong leader and a loving servant.

My thoughts:

Someone is a man if he is striving to live virtuously. The etymology of the word virtue means “manliness” or “courage.”

There are seven virtues. Virtues dispose men to act in a way which brings true happiness.

4 Moral Virtues:

Prudence- choosing the right method of conduct, choosing the right thing to do and the right way of going about it

Justice- respecting the rights of others, the rights of God, worshipping God, respecting our parents and superiors

Temperance- regulating pleasure with reason and avoiding addictions- like food, drink, sexual pleasure

Fortitude- moral strength and courage to meet difficulties and continue striving for the good

3 Theological Virtues:

Faith- where our will conforms itself with the divinely revealed truth, not based on intrinsic evidence but because the God who we know has revealed it

Hope- we trust in God and hope to attain eternal life, keep things in perspective

Charity- sometimes this is called love too. Charity helps our soul conform itself to God so that we are more united with Him. God is loved by His own intrinsic goodness and our neighbor is loved because of our love for God.

On top of that, I think that it is especially manly to be able to forgive, especially when it is hard, to give of yourself for others who could use your help, and to be in control of your actions and emotions by staying grounded in God instead of putting our hope in other people or things.

What are some ways that our culture portrays men? Is this fair? Generally we talked about how the expectations that our culture has put on men is way too low.

Mass:

(again, credit for most of this goes to Dr. Edward Sri and his book “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass”)

Lord, have mercy:

We say Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy three times to reflect the Triune God

What is mercy? Don’t we assume that mercy is necessary in a power relationship, like a king having mercy on his servants? This is different than the mercy of the hurting mercy game. Pope John Paul II compares the mercy of God to that of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. Let’s read that, Luke 15:11-32. What do you notice about the father’s mercy in this story? The father doesn’t just pardon his son of his offenses but rejoices and embraces his son because he can see the son’s change of heart. It’s about God’s love for us and desire for us to be with him, not a power trip.

God always looks with mercy on a repentant heart.

Many people came up to Jesus saying “Lord have mercy” so that they could be healed. We can have the same intentions.

Often we say the Lord have mercy in Greek, Kyrie Eleison. Notice how originally three different languages were used in the liturgy: Latin, Hebrew “Amen” and “Alleluia”, and Greek. St. Albert the Great, in the 1200s, noted: “the faith came to us Latins from the Greeks; Peter and Paul came to the Latins from the Greeks and from them came salvation for us. And so that we may be mindful that this grace came to us from the Greeks, we preserve even now the very words and syllables with which the divine mercy was first invoked by the people.” It’s pretty powerful to me to think how we are completely indebted to our forefathers in the faith in how we came to know the Lord and celebrate the liturgy.

The Gloria:

This is the song:

Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will. We praise You. We bless You. We adore you. We glorify You. We give You thanks for Your great glory. O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. O Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father: you Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. You Who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You Who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are holy. You alone are the Lord. You alone, O Jesus Christ, are most high. Together with the Holy Spirit in theglory of God the Father. Amen.

The opening line is the words that the angels sung announcing the birth of Christ in Luke 2:14. In a similar way, the Mass makes present Christmas, Christ is with us.

The Gloria is full of scripture. The entire thing comes from scripture, really. I’d go through it all but there are so many different points to make. A few highlights: it praises the Father, tells the story of Jesus, and then glorifies Jesus “You are seated at the right hand of the Father.”

Gloria is like a joyful response to the Lord have mercy!

A historical note is that at the part where we say “You alone are the Lord.” The word that means Lord was also used to describe Caesar. So in the Gloria we are saying that Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. Many Christians died for this fact.

After the Gloria, the priest prays the “collect” or opening prayer.

Next we move into the first major part of the mass: the Liturgy of the Word.