“We go to Mass on Sunday!” the father asserted, to which the exasperated youngster replied, “Dad, I can’t. I have soccer practice.” Sound familiar? It is increasingly difficult to recognize any difference between Sunday and the other days of the week.
Our Archdiocesan Synod, however, gave witness that the heart of the Church is the celebration of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, which is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). From the Blessed Sacrament flows all the worship, prayer, acts of charity and faith formation. Through the sacraments, the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection – is made present again in our day and applied to us.
Every time I read the results of a survey or a study recounting how many Catholics do not regularly attend Mass, I cannot help but think that too many people simply do not really understand what is taking place in the Eucharist. In like manner, Synod members recommended that on-going catechesis be provided on the liturgy and prayer. In addition, they expressed a desire that priests and deacons be helped as they prepare homilies that meet the needs of the faithful and convey fully and joyfully the Gospel message.
To foster and promote meaningful participation in the Mass, the Synod urged that efforts be undertaken to ensure that the use of liturgical music is appropriately reverent, that provision be made for moments of sacred silence during the liturgy, and that more of the laity be encouraged to get involved in various roles at Mass. Synod members also gave support to coordinating Mass times among the parishes and enhanced communication of Mass schedules through the various forms of media.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have the means of mediation – the sources of grace – that Jesus himself established and entrusted to the Church, and so we can go to receive his mercy in confession with complete confidence. It is the story of God’s love that never turns away from us, enduring even our shortsightedness and selfishness. The Synod asked that this sacramental mercy be made more widely available with more convenient times.
Stressing the unity and harmony of our spiritual family, with its wide diversity of cultures and life situations, Synod members said that it is crucial that all cultures be included in the life of the Church, especially in the grace-filled sacramental life. They pointed to the need to provide accommodation to our sisters and brothers with special needs – the elderly, the sick, those with disabilities, and those who are homebound, hospitalized, imprisoned or otherwise unable to come to a parish for Mass or confession.
In worship and intercessory prayer, in the outward and efficacious signs that are the sacraments, we are touched by the divine life of Christ through the action of the Spirit. What is purely natural, tied to this earth and limited to the confines of the flesh, gives way to a new fullness and richness that can only be described as a new life, the life of God welling up within us.