Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sunday word, 07 Feb 2010

5th Sunday of the Year C (07 Feb 2010)

Is 6. 1-2a, 3-8; Ps 138; 1Co 15. 1-11-; Lk 5.1-11

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Communion Etiquette

Listening to the word of God affects people variously. One way surprisingly reveals what we may not realize clearly or want to admit. In Peter’s case it was his self-awareness as a sinner, one group who responded with faith to the prophet Jesus, present among people. Jesus is present now in the power of his Spirit. One mode of his presence is sacramental, which we regularly experience in the Eucharist.

Last week Fr. Snow and I preached on our response in worship to the presence of Jesus so that we may deepen our experience Jesus. I want to bring together our communion ritual as we celebrate in the Latin Rite of the Catholic church. Two books are put to use at each mass: the Lectionary, which contains scripture selections read during the Liturgy of the Word; and the Roman Missal, containing the Eucharistic Prayers and other prayers said during the mass of the day.

Both books have introductions called General Instructions. The revised General Instruction to the Roman Missal reminds us that communion unites us as the “People of God, purchased by Christ’s Blood, gathered together by the Lord [and] nourished by his Word.”1 We are “made one by sharing in the Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood.”2

Our sharing observes certain gestures. One is procession.3 At communion, we move together to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. We move in song because singing is the overflow of our joyful praise, and because Jesus loves us more than we love him. St. Augustine said, “Singing is for one who loves.”4

Another gesture is silence.5 Like the rest of our conscious and active participation at mass, silence after all have received communion is not a vacuum of empty space. Silence intends to dispose us to deeper attitudes. Silence after all have received communion allows each of us “to praise and pray to God in our hearts.”6 After our communal silence, the priest says the prayer after communion to unite the prayers of all present and to conclude the Communion rite.7

“To take part fully aware of what [we] are doing, actively engaged in the rite, [helps us to be] enriched by its effects”8 as we return to the world. That restates my early remark that we desire to experience Jesus’ presence in our lives. Celebrating mass with full, conscious and active participation not only transforms silence into an active channel of grace. It transforms us to recall with our lives the one who gave himself for us and gives us hope in the ultimate victory of God’s justice, truth, love and peace.

This hope moves us, filling us with great joy and deep respect. Singing gives voice to our joy, and our bow before the sacred host and cup demonstrates our respect.9 Each of us expresses our belief in the mystery of faith, saying Amen before receiving the Lord’s body and blood and consuming them.10 The ancient word, Amen, expressing belief and solidarity, also unites us with the countless people who celebrate the mass throughout the world, with our ancestors in our Christian faith, as well as the uncounted communion of saints rejoicing in the heavenly liturgy.

We receive what Jesus offers—himself. Aware I am receiving disposes me more as his disciple today. Eating his body joins us more closely to him and to each other. Drinking his blood is our “sharing in the new covenant [and our] foretaste of the heavenly banquet.11

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of our triune God. Ask Mary and Joseph to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him: praise Jesus for creating and redeeming you and giving you himself in the eucharist to love him more intently and follow him more closely; ask Jesus for that twin grace especially when you receive him in the sacrament of the eucharist at mass. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The daily bread for which we pray has always been first the eucharistic bread,12 which unites us to Jesus and to each other for our world.

Gesu focused on the Communion rite this week and last week


  1. GIRM2002, 5.
  2. Ibid.
  3. GIRM2002, 44.
  4. His Sermon 336, quoted by the GIRM2002, 39.
  5. GIRM2002, 45.
  6. Ibid.
  7. GIRM2002, 89.
  8. Decree on Liturgy, 11, the Second Vatican Council. Recent popes taught that about the liturgy before the Council, and the Council expressed their teaching in the now often heard, shorthand principle, “conscious and active participation.” The principle is the title of the first part of Chapter 2 of the Instruction on the Eucharist, issued in 2004 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
  9. Cf. GIRM2002, 160.
  10. GIRM2002, 161.
  11. Instruction to the Order of Mass, 134, by the United States Bishops Committee on Liturgy, 2003.
  12. Cf. GIRM2002, 81.
Wiki-image of fishing Peter is in the public domain.

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