As you know, one of the recommendations of our working groups last year was to refresh our parish mission statement in light of the ways God is calling us today. This fall, I convened a group of parishioners and staff members to pray and reflect on these things. The result of their excellent efforts is our revised mission statement, and a set of five core values that we share as a parish family.
Our mission is simple: To live and share Christ’s call to holiness.
Over the next five weeks, we will take a closer look at each of our core values in these articles and in the homily at Mass.
Today, our focus is our first core value: “We are rooted in a reverent sacramental life as the primary means of union with Christ.”
Ecce Agnus Dei
Enough time has passed that some of our younger parishioners may not remember the changes in the English translation of the Mass, which we began using almost a decade ago. One of those changes had to do with the words of St John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. In the old translation, “Ecce Agnus Dei” was translated, “This is the Lamb of God.” The new and more accurate translation used in the Communion Rite at Mass is, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
There is something weightier about the word “Behold” that hints at the meaning of this first core value for us as a parish. In our Gospel, St John the Baptist doesn’t just point at Jesus, he invites his followers to “Behold the Lamb of God,” [Jn 1: 29] revealing to them that Jesus is the One! He is the Messiah, promised since the Book of Genesis, who will save us from our sins. For me, this word “Ecce” (“Behold”) also brings to mind the Passion of our Lord. I think of Pontius Pilot presenting Jesus, beaten and bleeding, to the crowd. He says, “Behold the Man.” [Jn 19: 5]
My brothers and sisters, when we hear this word “Behold” at Mass, it should remind us that the Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ. When the priest lifts the Body and the Blood of our Lord, just before we receive him in Holy Communion, the same beaten and bleeding Man is presented to us, for the salvation of our soul. This is why, as a parish family, we are rooted in a reverent sacramental life. It is the most important thing – the essential thing for our salvation and for our deep and eternal union with Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Here I Am
When we don’t just see but “Behold” the Lord, the rest comes naturally. We are moved to offer ourselves in return and the rest of our core principles will fall into place. In our Gospel, John and Andrew were drawn irresistibly toward Jesus, following after him, listening to him and remaining with him as two of his Apostles. They entered into an intimate relationship with the Lord. The same is true of Samuel in our Old Testament reading. As a boy, he recognizes the Lord and offers himself in return, saying, “Here I am…your servant is listening.” [1 Sam 3: 3, 10] He speaks with the Lord alone, without Eli or anyone else by his side.
This intimacy with the Lord has its roots in the Mass, when we are able to “Behold” Jesus there. The saints understood this, and more than that, they experienced it in their lives. St Padre Pio said that it would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Mass! He went even further, saying that “if we knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.” Can we say the same thing? Do we value the Mass as the saints did, because it is the moment when, with John and Andrew, we “Behold” the Lamb of God? If your eyesight has grown a bit dim of late and the Mass is not what it should be for you, don’t worry! Come, and let Jesus reveal himself to you!