Why do we gather together at Mass? And what does it have to do with being holy?
Our readings this Sunday have a message for us about community, and more specifically, about the nature of worship within community. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he calls them to work harder at eradicating the divisions that have sprung up among them, striving to be marked by unity as one Christian people: united in the same mind and in the same purpose. He also reminds them that, baptized, they are called to be holy. But what does that mean, exactly? In a sense, it means that they (and we) are called to make God present, to proclaim God’s presence, not just as individuals, but with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we worship together, we are witness to God’s love in our lives, with a new song in our mouth, a hymn to our God, as Psalm 40 reminds us. We are to announce God’s justice in the vast assembly and not restrain our lips. It is a starting point from which we go forth into the world, sent, like the apostles, to reveal the Good News.
When the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove, John’s Gospel tells us, it remains upon him. What more beautiful reminder to us that God came to earth to remain, in the context of the people God would call through Jesus, those who allow God’s life to grow within them, who allow themselves to live in God. We gather in one assembly every Sunday, first of all, so that this presence might fill us and be manifest, so that Christ might be present in us and through us – we gather, so that we might be the Body of Christ, united in the same mind and in the same purpose. And as such, we, like the people of Israel in our reading from Isaiah, must call all nations to ultimate union with God as we give witness to God’s activity in our lives; we must be that light to the nations, founded by God, fueled by God, centered on God.
Why do we gather for Mass? Ultimately, one hopes, because our hearts are so filled with love—for God and for other—that our gathering is a natural and joyful expression of that love, a response to the call of our baptism to be holy, so that we might go forth to reveal the love that is God, present and active, in our lives, every moment of our lives.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.