At liturgy, the assembly gathers to hear God’s word and respond to it. It is God’s word that calls and forms the community that comes together. Christians believe that in the assembly it is still Christ who speaks when the Scriptures are proclaimed. It is a “live” word, not a mere recording of the past.
Christ’s word is also embodied in those actions, called sacraments, in which Christ does what he says. For example, when Christ says (through those ordained or authorized to speak in his name), “your sins are forgiven,” they are forgiven. When he says, in the celebration of Eucharist, “this is my body, this is my blood” (which is a way of emphasising “it really is me”), then it really is.
We come to faith more fully in the community of faith.
Just as he did during his earthly life, the same Jesus, now risen, still reaches out, giving new life, renewed hope, forgiveness, healing, strength, and consolation. Sacraments make present, make visible, what he is saying and doing for us.
The reading of the Scriptures each Sunday builds up for the assembly a picture of how God has been present in the lives of other people. This makes it easier for us to recognise the signs of God’s presence in our own lives. The homily that follows the readings is different from a sermon. Sermons tell people what they should be doing; a homily points to what God is doing in our own lives. Seeing the signs of God’s presence in our own lives makes us want to praise, thank, and trust God.
In the liturgy, the Scriptures become a kind of mirror where we see ourselves in the light of God’s purposes. The Church holds this mirror up at different angles during the various seasons and feasts of the Christian year, always reflecting the way God is present in people’s lives, including our own. To walk away from the mirror where we are revealed to ourselves is to walk out on ourselves.
Part of our response to God’s word is our profession of faith. By declaring what we believe we declare who we are. Christians are not the only ones included in God’s wonderful plan. But they have the privilege of knowing the plan God has revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is a privilege they want to share with others.
The practices of the faith form an environment of faith. In that environment we are able to experience the certainty of faith. This certainty cannot be known from the outside looking in. We come to faith more fully in the community of faith. Its faith, which had its origins in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, becomes our faith.
The community’s understanding of the gospel gradually becomes our own understanding. Participation in the life of the Church and the formation of a Christian conscience take place together. The community also grows in its understanding of the faith. It can be sure of its faith even before it fully understands.
Reflect on how you would expect a Christian’s conscience to be different even though God’s law is the same for all.
Reflect on this passage, and make these words your own.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
CHRISTIANS LIVE BY TWO CALENDARS: one that marks the days, weeks, and seasons according to the movement of the earth around the sun; and another that commemorates the events that give meaning to all this. Our awareness of salvation history becomes part of our journey through time.
- During the season of Advent, Christians “re-live” the period during which the Jewish people waited and prepared themselves for the coming of the promised Savior. The Scripture readings and prayers of the Advent season deepen our own longing for his coming. In this way we open our lives to him, “until he comes again.”
- At Christmas we re-live with wonder the fact that God has personally entered our history and done so in this intimately human way.
- During Lent we prepare ourselves by prayer, fasting, and generosity for the holy season of Easter. Receiving the gifts of God involves being open to them, and being sorry for the times we have closed ourselves off from God.
- In Holy Week we accompany Jesus through the last days of his earthly life, including his last supper with his disciples, followed by his prayer in the garden, then his arrest and crucifixion.
- The highlight of the Christian calendar is Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and our own future resurrection, for he was “the first fruits of many brothers and sisters” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
- By celebrating his ascension, we celebrate his “return to the Father” taking our human nature with him, and his “going on ahead of us to prepare a place for us” (John 14:1-3).
- Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit who gathers us into the unity of Christ’s body. In union with Christ we have “confident access to the Father” (Ephesians 3:12).