Let us talk about the church. The Gospel for this Sunday mass, Mt. 18: 15-20, speaks to how to address the problem of a recalcitrant member, remedy it, and gain back that member. We only pray that we listen to the voice of God that speaks through the church whenever we fall away from the truth. I want us to look further into the word ekklesias, the church. In the context of this reflection, the church is constituted by people who have been called by grace out of the world to form a people of the new covenant, members of Christ's kingdom. As members of God's family, the church, we must work towards unity of heart and purpose. In matters of faith, we cannot do our "private" things; we do what God commands us to do as one people. In like manner, when it comes to what the institution church has legislated, whether it has to do with doctrine or liturgy, we cannot do our own thing, but we must follow the directive of the voice of Christ speaking through his body, the Church. This is God's will.
We can see the importance of acting as one, with unity of purpose as the church in the life of prayer, both public and private. Jesus emphasizes "symphonein," a Greek word meaning "in accord" or "agreement," indicating a harmony of voices. For instance, when we come together as a church to participate in the mass, we should be one in mind and heart; we should give no room to discord on our intent and purpose. Other than praying with affirmation as we come together, we should also stress the importance of having a unified understanding of what we are doing and how we are doing it. What is the intention of the church for us on how to celebrate and participate in mass? Are we of one accord? Do we agree on the meaning of what we are doing at mass?
I would like to address some of these questions by offering three consecutive Saturday catechesis on productive participation in the Holy Mass from September 23 through September 30 and October 7. The theme is Holy Mass: To Prepare, Receive, and Thank. I will celebrate twenty-three years of my priestly ordination on September 23, the memorial of St. Pio, priest of the Holy Eucharist. I would be grateful if you could come to celebrate with me by attending this series on the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Christian faith and the central function of my priesthood.
Let us strive to listen to the voice of the church, the body of Christ, as we pray as a family of God. We need to pray as one and clearly understand God's will. We must come together to pray and not forsake the family gathering (see Heb. 10: 24-25). When we gather for mass, the Church calls us to pray as one and with one voice. Listen to Christ and the Church, and never miss mass!
In His Joy,
Fr. Alayode Bernard, OP