2004/1 No.314

Living the Mass in Everyday Life

Paul Otsuka Yoshinao, Bishop of Kyoto
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Living the Mass in Everyday Life

 

 

Paul Otsuka Yoshinao, Bishop of Kyoto

1/1/2004, Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God

 

 

1            Letfs experience a Community of Faith

 

 

 Happy New Year! This year I would like, with the help of all of you, to move ahead resolutely with Collaborative Ministry for Mission in Kyoto Diocese. Last year we put our efforts into thinking about and experiencing a community of faith whose members are genuine friends. In that context I reaffirmed especially our mission, as a community, to hand on our faith to the next generation by choosing the theme gFaith Development of Childrenh. I realize that many of the lay people of the diocese are responding to that call. From this year let us, as a diocese, make a fresh start in getting to grips with the task of handing on our faith to our children.

 

2                        The Blessed Sacrament which gives life to the Church

 

 

 After passing the landmark of 25 years in the papacy last year, John-Paul II continues to dedicate his life to his vocation as the successor of Peter. He published an encyclical letter, gThe Blessed Sacrament which gives life to the Churchh (2003/4/17) in which his message is about the mystery and sacredness of the Blessed Sacrament (eucharistia) which nurtures and activates the Church. Whilst sharing about his own faith life and faith experience, which is intimately associated with the Eucharist, he calls on Christians who are gputting out into the deeph to evangelize in the third millennium to savour afresh the mystery of the Eucharist, to deepen their wonder at it, so they can properly appreciate the meaning of the Mass and give it central importance in their lives.

 In seeking a new shape for the Church in the 21st century we must embark on the long journey of promoting Collaborative Ministry for Mission and developing as an gevangelizing communityh but, in the midst of that, it is the Mass itself, where we are gathered around Christ, which is the most important means of bringing about a living community. The Mass must be what gives life to the faith of the Church and each of us; it must become the source of energy which gives life to the Church community. If people are concerned about their own way of taking part in the Mass or there are practical difficulties about the way a parish celebrates the Eucharist with the result that individuals or the community cannot see the Mass as a source of strength in their lives; if people feel they have to look somewhere other than the Mass to satisfy their spiritual hunger, then there is a need for serious heart searching about the way in which we think of, and are involved in, the Mass and other parts of the liturgy. This year, using the theme gLive the Mass in everyday lifeh I would like Kyoto diocese to put its efforts into making the celebration of the parish Sunday Mass a real gExperience of the Community of Faithh.

 

3            Living the Mass in everyday Life

 

 

 Christ asks two things of us in our ordinary everyday lives. These are gFollow Meh (Mark8:34) and gI am sending youh (John20:21). As well as being the mystical re-presentation of Christfs death and resurrection the Mass is also an encounter with the living Christ; it has the potential to be the source from which we can gain an understanding of the saving work of Christand communicate it to the world. Christfs way of life with its all-embracing love and self-sacrifice which we commemorate in the Mass is an example for us, his disciples, to follow. At Mass each of us is invited, first of all, through the gWord of Godh, to follow Christ. Then we are sent out again into geveryday lifeh, as a community of believers joined to Christ through the Blessed Sacrament and emboldened by Him, to turn our Society into one compatible with the Will of God.

 Christ sent us the Holy Spirit, our ghelperh and gcomforterh, and is active in our everyday lives. In this way the Triune God is showing people, of whatever time or place, his intention to save the whole of creation. We can say, therefore, that we also encounter God in our everyday lives. What I mean by gLiving the Mass in everyday Lifeh is learning Christfs way of life from the Mass and, led by the Spirit, living it out in your own everyday lives. We, who are called through Baptism, and especially through Confirmation, by God the Father, source of salvation, to be co-workers with Christ, drawing strength from the spiritual gift of the Mass, are sent out with Christ into everyday life. Precisely because of this, so that the Mass may be bound up with our everyday lives, in union with Christ, we must take part wholeheartedly in the Mass.

 

4                The Mass: guarantee of salvation from Jesusf Last Supper

 

 

 God laid it down that His people of the Old Testament should keep the Sabbath as a gsign of liberationh from the gcondition of slaveryh. In Jesusf time, however, so far as the Sabbath as a gsign of liberationh is concerned, the leaders of Judaism structured Society on the assumption that only those people who kept the Sabbath would experience Godfs salvation. The poor and sick who wanted to keep it but could not, along with those who had been designated sinners and foreigners, were placed outside the framework of Society and excluded from Godfs salvation. Jesus showed people, by spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God and living together with people who were subject to religious and social exclusion at risk to himself, what God is like. He showed the meaning and purpose of his own life much more deeply before his passion and death on the cross by means of his Last Supper. At the table Jesus broke bread and gave it to his disciples and shared wine with them. He made this bread and wine his gSacred body and bloodh as a sign of his all-embracing love for God and people and of his self-sacrifice. After Jesusf death the disciples, inheriting his unshakeable certainty of salvation, constantly renewed and deepened the faith of the Church in the salvation of all people through the power of God by means of celebrating each eLordfs Dayf the eRite of Thanksgivingf they had been left at the Last Supper.

 

5                The Mass: influenced by the Churchfs course of history

 

 

 The Mass, which Christ instituted in this way and which the Church will celebrate until the end of the world, is a gsign of the highest freedomh: our release from sin and evil by His passion and resurrection. Are we not, however, perhaps constrained by an understanding of the Mass as an obligation or a ritual? Even worse are we not, being accustomed to the Mass and neglecting it completely, seeing even faith itself as a mere accessory to our lives? In order to rid ourselves of that attitude, as well as soul searching on the part of each individual, knowing something of the 2000 year history of the Church and of the Mass would be a great help.

 When Christianity became the State Religion (of the Roman Empire) the understanding and way of celebrating Mass, which the early Christians celebrated as a commemoration of the Lordfs Supper and to which they gave the importance of something on which depended their whole future, changed greatly. As the age of persecution turned into one in which everyone was a Christian, Baptism, Confirmation and Matrimony became not simply sacraments of the Church but gsignsh merged with simultaneous rites of passage in civil society. Many large scale Church buildings were constructed and within them as well as the main altar many other altars were placed; the notion of celebrating Mass as a community was weakened and the practice of celebrating Mass for the intention of an individual increased. Eucharistic Worship became separated from ordinary life and the idea that it is a matter of personal devotion was strongly implanted. Because of this phenomenon, although the true nature of the Mass never changed, there was a gradual move away from the attitude that it was an expression of faith in accordance with the instruction of Jesus at the last Supper to do this as a community. I think we have to recognize, not hide from, the historical truth that in the midst of this a part of the brotherhood separated from the Catholic Church and set up other groups. In recent times the world is facing a new phase: we have moved from an age in which God was considered to be the basic principle of everything to one in which human reason has become the sole yardstick for every decision. It has generally come to be thought that mankind can understand any phenomenon by unaided reason and that God is can be thought to exist only in the gfield of religionh.

 

6            The Mass: support for the challenge to an evangelizing life.

 

 

 Are not we, the people of today, blinkered by rationalism and individualism, once again in a condition similar to the slavery of the people of the Old Testament? We have become captive to the things of this world, which takes no account of God, and day by day are losing our humanity. Are not we, the Christians of today, having achieved an economically affluent life or working towards it, perhaps tending toward a faith which only asks for ethe power of Godf or egracef when, for some reason, times become difficult? If we are really taking part in the Lordfs Day Mass in the true spirit then, as a matter of course, we will come to question the manner of our everyday life. This is tied up with re-examining our awareness of the objective of the Mass; do we go to Mass for our own benefit or do we take part to pray for the realization of the kind of Society Christ wants? Attending Mass is not just an obligation or a ceremony, nor is it simply a matter of going to meet onefs friends. When we take part in the Mass it is an opportunity to ask ourselves questions like gHow will I live my life todayh, gHow will I live my life this weekh.

 Is it not because we, who make up the Catholic Church at present, divide up our lives into sections that we are unable to draw strength from our own faith lives? And is it not because we are a community gathered from Christians of this sort, who have somehow taken the notion that faith is something separate, that our community cannot take a dynamic form which can appeal to the younger generation? It is we Christians, however, who have been called to witness to the people of today, who are put under pressure by their lives, that it is precisely the love of God which supports them throughout their lives and that he is the light by which they can find the courage and strength to live eeveryday lifef. Of course we, too, are modern people whose lives put us under pressure. For that reason our lives as evangelizers will naturally require great courage and self-sacrifice.

 The Mass, which commemorates the sacrifice of the Son of God, Christ our Lord and Saviour, teaches us more than anything else to be aware that we are sinners who do not respond perfectly to what God asks of us. Without this awareness that we are sinners in need of the atonement of Christ we are unable either to encounter God or to meet one another as brothers and sisters who believe in God. In order to enter into the mystery of the Mass we must first of all be freed from our self-centred view of faith.

 

7            The Mass: embodiment of faith in ordinary life

 

 

Our Participation in the saving work of Christ, therefore, begins with our participation in the Mass. To say what we signify in the Mass is that the evangelical activity of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross are re-presented for this generation is not simply to say that it is aiming at everyonefs individual repentance. The sacrifice of Jesus in the Mass is for the renewal of human society from its very roots, to make it possible for all people to live their lives in every aspect according to a system of values which fulfils the Will of God. We Christians are striving to bring about this spiritual development in the midst of eeveryday lifef.In this way the Mass is embodied in everyday life. This is because, for the laity, gall their works, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne - all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ and during the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lordfs bodyh. (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 34)

 The everyday lives of Christians transformed through the Mass become the arena for integrating faith and life. Moreover, the Mass is where Christians are given the strength to confront this world. A sense of values which, in the Mass celebrates the love of God before all else, gives us the strength to change any social and cultural framework which is opposed to the gospel. A strong motivating force for the change of our selves and our society is contained in the Mass. The Mass is, therefore the driving force of evangelization.

 

8            The Mass: renewal of our basic resolve to evangelization

 

 

 Before this genuine strength contained in the Mass can be activated, however, we must first experience our own eSocial conversionf. The beginning of this process of conversion is taking note of the oppression and injustice, coming from a social structure opposed to the gospel, which exist in our own lives and in the Church community. The next stage is recognizing that we ourselves and the Church community are powerless in the face of this structural evil. In this way, acknowledging the fact that we are victims of our social structure we, at the same time, wake up to the fact that this structure is the result of our own self-seeking and the disordered attachments of the Church community and this means that we are also perpetrators of harm. When we realize this we can encounter more vividly in the Mass Jesus who challenges anything in human society which is opposed to the gospel.

 Christfs fundamental resolve was to remove all manner of disadvantage, oppression, and discrimination from the lives of all people without exception. Christians choose Christfs fundamental resolve as their own. When, through the scripture readings at Mass, we can hear this word of the Lord clashing with our own way of life and that of Society, when we can listen to the living Word of God and hear what he wants of us then Mass becomes the place where we can make up our minds again to join Christ in his struggle. In other words it is through the Mass that we constantly renew our fundamental resolve to evangelize. In putting before you the objective gLiving the Mass in everyday lifeh, therefore, I am concerning myself with the degree to which our fundamental resolve, as individuals, of always standing up to and fighting against situations in which human dignity is being trampled on has sunk into our lives.

 

9            The Mass: becoming a Church which serves Society

 

 

 gLiving the Mass in everyday lifeh means aspiring towards solidarity with ethe least of peoplef and making a practical choice to live in a simple manner. A simple way of life is one which involves sharing. It is making joint cause with people who are suffering or being oppressed. This is the Spirit of Christ and we could say that it is the Mass itself.

 Even today, in the Mass, Christ is sharing with us that he is offering to the Father all people, especially those who are suffering, as his own mystical body. As, at Mass in the 21st century, we cry for liberation from structural evil and ever more strongly take a lead in healing the divisions in society, the Church can become more and more a Church which serves society. To the extent that the Mass itself becomes the occasion for evangelization and the promotion of Justice and the laity become a living sacrament fed by the Body of Christ, the Church is being changed into one which serves the World.

 

10          The Mass: sacrament of deep fellowship

 

 

 What impression do people who take part for the first time in the Mass, as we celebrate it today, take away with them? Do they gain the impression that following the general rubrics has gforced the Mass into a moldh; or do they look at the way the readings are delivered, the Prayer of the Faithful, the way in which the Sign of Peace is exchanged, the way in which we interact with one another before and after Mass, and gain the impression that here there is a dynamic fellowship of people who value one another greatly. If they see in our Mass a deep and heartfelt fellowship which is not commonly to be found and they are filled with admiration, they will probably believe that it is through the Mass that we are liberated, saved, and share the joy life so renewed.

 So then, are all those taking part in the parish Mass accepting of all people without exception? Is consideration given to the poor, the handicapped, foreigners living in Japan, children, young adults, the sick, the elderly, people who for a variety of reasons are unable to take part in the Mass, and people who have come to Mass for the first time etc. so that they can take part without feeling uncomfortable?

 It is true also that we who are blessed with the opportunity to take part in the Sunday Mass, who are able to receive the Eucharist, that spiritual food which satisfies the spiritually hungry and the poor, are certainly sent out afresh, strengthened by the Blessed Sacrament we have received, to those brothers and sister who are suffering from hunger and poverty. In this way if we broaden the circle of deep fellowship which is brought about in the Mass to include precisely those people who are actually poor in everyday life, people who are discriminated against, sick people, and people who have a different set of values from ourselves the we can rejoice together with them at meeting and welcoming Christ himself, present in everyone.

 

11           Praying with Mary for the grace of the Mass

 

 

Throughout Maryfs the whole life she was a ewoman enlivened by the Body of Christf. Mary praised God through Jesus, in Jesus, with Jesus. Because of this the Church has declared Mary a model for us. In the Eucharist the Church has a perfect way of being joined to the sacrifice of Christ and of making the Spirit of Mary its own Spirit. This year, having decided on gLiving the Mass in everyday lifeh, let us ask earnestly, along with Mary, for the grace and the gift of hope to be able to look again at our way of life and to integrate the Mass with our everyday lives.

 The Sunday Mass in our various parishes is provided so that it may be, more than anything, an opportunity to foster the unity of that faith community, and so that the faith community which is the parish can celebrate the esacrament of unityf. (Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, gThe Lordfs Day - the importance of Sundayh, 36). When the Church celebrates the Rite of the Eucharist Mary is always there with us; letfs pray for the grace of unity as we offer the Mass with her.

 Finally, let us continue to pray for gWorld Peaceh in the Mass. Pray for Peace in the Middle East and that the recovery of Iraq may proceed; that we may be able to move towards the resolution of conflicts all over the world. Pray that people all over the world may be joined to Christ, the gPrince of Peaceh, that gAll may be oneh, that all people, without exception may live in solidarity. Until God is in our everyday lives, pray gthat he may be in all things and become all things.h

 

 

Cf.

Pope John Paul II:  Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (gThe Eucharist                                           which gives life to the Churchh), 2003/4/17.

Pope John Paul II:  Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini (gThe Lords Dayh) 1998/5/31





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