Pope Francis continues his catechesis on matters liturgical at this week’s General Audience…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning! Good morning even if the day is a bit nasty. However, if the spirit is joyful it’s always a good day. So, good morning! Today the Audience will take place in two areas: a small group of the sick is in the Hall, given the weather, and we are here. But we see them and they see us in the giant screen. We greet them with an applause.
We continue with the catechesis on the Mass. To what does the listening of the biblical Readings, prolonged in the homily, respond? It responds to a right: the spiritual right of the People of God to receive abundantly the treasure of the Word of God (Cf. Introduction to the Lectionary, 45). When we go to Mass, each one of us has the right to receive abundantly the Word of God well read, well said and then, explained well in the homily. It’s a right! And when the Word of God isn’t read well, isn’t preached with fervour by the Deacon, by the Priest of by the Bishop, one fails a right of the faithful. We have the right to hear the Word of God. The Lord speaks to all, Pastors and faithful. He knocks at the heart of all those taking part in the Mass, each one in his condition of life, age <and> situation. The Lord consoles, calls, brings forth shoots of new and reconciled life. And <He does> this through His Word; His Word knocks at the heart and changes hearts!
Therefore, after the homily, a time of silence enables one to settle the seed received in the spirit, so that resolutions of adherence are born to what the Spirit has suggested to each one. Silence after the homily — there must be a beautiful silence there — and each one must think about what he has heard.
After this silence, how does the Mass continue? The personal response of faith is inserted in the Church’s profession of faith, expressed in the “Creed.” We all recite the “Creed” in the Mass. Recited by the whole assembly, the Symbol manifests the common response to what has been heard together of the Word of God (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 185-197). There is a vital nexus between listening and faith. They are united. The latter — faith –, in fact, is not born from the imagination of human minds but, as Saint Paul reminds, “from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Faith is nourished, therefore, with listening and leads to the Sacrament. So the recitation of the “Creed” is such that it makes the liturgical assembly “turn to meditate and profess the great mysteries of the faith, before their celebration in the Eucharist” [Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano, (OGMR) 67].
The Symbol of faith links the Eucharist to Baptism, received “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and reminds us that the Sacraments are comprehensible in the light of the faith of the Church.
The response to the Word of God received with faith is then expressed in the common supplication, called the Universal Prayer, because it encompasses the needs of the Church and of the world (Cf. OGMR, 69-71; Introduction to the Lectionary, 30-31). It is also called Prayer of the Faithful.
The Fathers of Vatican II wished to restore this prayer after the Gospel and the homily, especially on Sunday and feasts, so that “with the participation of the people, prayers are said for the Holy Church, for those that govern us, for those that find themselves in various needs, for all men and for the salvation of the whole world” (Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 53; Cf. I Timothy 2:1-2). Therefore, under the guidance of the Priest who introduces and concludes, ”the people, exercising their own baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all” (OGMR, 69). And after the individual intentions, proposed by the Deacon or a reader, the assembly unites its voice invoking: “Hear us, O Lord.”
We remember, in fact, all that the Lord Jesus has said to us: “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). However, we don’t believe this, because we have little faith.” But, Jesus says, if we had faith as a grain of mustard, we would receive everything. “Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” And in this moment of the Universal Prayer after the Creed, is the moment to ask the Lord for the most intense things in the Mass, the things of which we are in need, what we want. “It shall be done for you,” in one way or another, but “It shall be done for you.” “All is possible for one who believes,” said the Lord. What did that man answer, whom the Lord addressed to say this word — all is possible for one who believes? He said: “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.” And we must pray with this spirit of faith: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” Mundane logical pretensions, instead, don’t take off to Heaven, just as self-referential requests remain unheard (Cf. James 4:2-3). The intentions for which the faithful people are invited to pray must give voice to concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding taking recourse to conventional or myopic formulas. The “Universal” Prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to make our own God’s look, who takes care of all His children.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT, www.zenit.org