The Centrality of the Liturgy

Reading 1 Dn 12:1-3

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

Reading 2 Heb 10:11-14, 18

Gospel Mk 13:24-32

For most of us, the Mass is what we see or would like to see, what we experience or would like to experience. Some suggest that our Mass should return to the time-honored Latin, which nobody understands. Others want more Chinese and Tagalog Masses. Some want a quiet, songless Mass; others want to sing every part of the Mass that can be put into notes. The problem is, everyone thinks that his is the only proper way to celebrate the liturgy. For all their importance, there can be blind spots; they can keep us from seeing more deeply into the mystery we all cherish. In the liturgy, we celebrate the timeless work of redemption; we proclaim God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation. We don’t just read about them, we don’t just remember them – we re-present them; make them effectively present in us and in our lives.

In all this a major element is God’s word. Year after year, the readings recapture the movement of our salvation. Last Advent we re-presented the world’s waiting for its Savior. We welcome the Lord as he came to us at Christmas, surprisingly in the form of an infant. We grew to manhood with him, walked in his footsteps through Galilee and Judea. We recaptured his dying-rising through Lent and Easter. His Ascension lifted all of us with him to the Father; his Spirit descended not only on the disciples, but also on each believer. And since Pentecost we have heard and lived the mission of the Church, its ups and downs, its pride and passion, its agony and its ecstasy, its ceaseless struggle to grow into the fullness of its Lord, its living in hope for the final coming of the Savior.

And now, we reach the end of the Liturgical year. Next week the peak, we will crown Christ the King. There, the liturgy celebrates what will be the high point of creation, when humankind and all it possesses will be subjected to Christ, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. Today we celebrate the beginning of that end; today we live in anticipation the end of the world, as we know it. If Advent was prologue to the Christian mystery, we now get a sneak preview into its finality.

Let us affirm Christ’s final coming with the intensity of the early Christians, who expected him to return within their lifetime. After the Consecration, let us proclaim with uncommon conviction what we confess to be that mystery of our faith: “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!”

But if Christ’s coming “with great power and glory” is merely a matter of Christian hope, if it may well be a millennium or more away, if I can do nothing to hasten or delay it, isn’t it quite irrelevant to my day to day existence? If you are convinced that “Christ will come again,” that the final moment is the moment to which all of history, including your own, is marching, that this is the climax of Christian yearning, then you will live in its light. You will become now what you want to be then.

How do you assure that? The significant single word here is the command of Jesus at the end of this chapter of Mark: “Watch! Be on the alert! Keep your eyes open for the constant coming of Christ into your life. He comes to us all the time – each time you come together, each time his word is proclaimed to you; each time his body rests in your hand or on your tongue. Christ comes to you in each person, man, woman, or child, whose eyes meet yours, especially those who hunger for food or love.

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