July 5, 2024

Christ the Cornerstone

Celebrating a friendship with Jesus in the gift of the Mass

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“If the Eucharist shapes synodality, then the first step we should take is to celebrate the Mass in a way that befits the gift, with an authentic sense of friendship in Christ. Liturgy celebrated with authenticity is the first and fundamental school of discipleship. Its beauty and simplicity should form us prior to any other organized formation program.” (2023 Synod Synthesis Report, Part I: Synodality: Experience and Understanding, #3 “Entering the Community of Faith: Christian Initiation”)

One of the four pillars of our three-year National Eucharistic Revival is “Reinvigorating Worship.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “reinvigorating” as giving renewed strength or energy to something. The synonyms suggested include: to arouse, energize, perk up or stimulate. However, as important as it is to celebrate liturgies that are vibrant (not dull or boring), the reinvigoration called for in the Eucharistic Revival means something fundamentally different.

First of all, we are not responsible for giving life to our worship, especially the holy Eucharist. That is the work of the Holy Spirit who breathes divine life into all creation, including our acts of thanks and praise to God.

Our role in the reinvigoration of worship is to make room for the Spirit of God by being receptive to God’s word, by opening ourselves to the gift of Christ’s real presence in the holy Eucharist, and by our “full, conscious and active participation” in the liturgies and devotional practices we celebrate as a community of faith.

To borrow a phrase used of Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the United States in 2008, our liturgies should be “Alive in Christ.” This means that they should resonate with an authentic sense of the presence of God in word and sacrament as well as in the experience of koinonia (community), and they should reflect a keen awareness of the mission entrusted to us as disciples of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit. We do not give life to our worship. Our worship reinvigorates us!

Secondly, sacred worship is not necessarily loud or busy. To reinvigorate our worship is to make it more prayerful and more beautiful. Moments of silence and contemplation can contribute to vibrant liturgy, raising our minds and hearts to God, even as an engaged congregation achieves full participation in the liturgy by prayerful listening and by joining in the acclamations and responses with enthusiasm.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that our liturgies will be more vigorous if we make them more appealing to modern taste. So, we introduce different forms of popular music, or we seek to make our homilies more entertaining. This approach usually backfires. Sacred worship is not a form of entertainment. Certainly, our music must be inspiring, and our homilies should be accessible to all, but in a fundamentally different way than the “shows” that we watch outside of worship.

Finally, authentic worship draws people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It satisfies our hungry hearts by nourishing us with the body and blood of our Savior and by uniting us with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Vibrant worship is life-giving. It restores our faith, renews our hope and fills us with the unconditional, everlasting love of God.

As Pope Francis consistently reminds us, our Church does not exist for its own sake. We are gathered into the one body of Christ for the sake of the mission that he has given us: to go out to the whole world and proclaim his good news to everyone. A vigorous worship service is one that renews and strengthens us for the work we are called to do in Jesus’ name.

All of us are aware that in the United States, and in many other, but not all, parts of the world, Sunday Mass attendance has been declining for decades. The National Eucharistic Congress that we are hosting in Indianapolis on July 17–21 is intended to be a positive response to this disturbing trend. Before, during and after this historic occasion, we seek to raise high the sacred host and to remind ourselves and everyone we meet that Christ is present among us and that we are truly “Alive in Christ!”

Please join in welcoming the thousands of pilgrims who are traveling from all over our country and beyond to celebrate the 10th National Eucharistic Congress here in the United States in Indianapolis, the Crossroads of America.

May we gather as one community of faith, hope and love in friendship with Jesus Christ. And may we enthusiastically accept this opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit of God to reinvigorate our worship and to renew us in carrying out our work as missionary disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. †

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