Dear Parishioners,
Those of you, who were listening attentively to the Gospel may have noticed that there was a line in the Gospel that is used in another place in our liturgy. John the Baptist speaks it: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” These are the very words which are said at every Mass by the celebrant as he invites the assembly to communion. So, we have the same words found in the Gospel of John and in our liturgy.

If I were to ask you to guess in which of these two places did this saying first occur, you would probably guess the Gospel of John. It is easy to imagine that John wrote it into his Gospel and later it was taken from the Scriptures and made a part of our liturgy. But there are serious reasons to suppose that the exact opposite is true. You see, the Gospel of John was written at the end of the first century and by that time, Christians had been celebrating liturgy for many decades. Therefore, it is more likely that John chose to include this saying within his Gospel because his community had been using it in its liturgy for many years. Before there was the Bible, before there was the New Testament, there was a community, a church, which gathered for prayer. Before Christians could find the presence of Christ in the written word of the Scriptures, they found the presence of Christ as they gathered to worship. This primacy of worship is a good topic for us to consider as we begin this New Year and as we return to Ordinary Time in our Liturgical Year.

Why is it so important for us to gather in worship? Or to put this on a more personal level, why is it that we come regularly here to share this Eucharist? Do you come out of obligation because you will feel guilty if you do not come? Do you come out of habit because you have been conditioned to do so? Those reasons will get you here, but they are not the best reasons. The fundamental reason we gather as we do each weekend is because Christ is here. Christ has promised to be here. He has told us that where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of them. He has commanded us to share this meal in memory of Him. So, when the community gathers, Christ is present. And the community gathers in order that they might encounter the Risen Christ.

Now when I say this, I am not saying that this is the only place that Christ is present. Christ is present in many places. Often when you talk to Catholics who do not come to church, they point this out to you. They will say, I do not go to church, but I find Christ in my prayer. I find Christ when I read the Bible at home. I find Christ as I walk out into nature. I find Christ as I serve other people. I find Christ every weekend on the 18th tee. I will not argue with any of those statements. Christ is found in all of those places. However, the primary place where Christ has promised to be present is here—when we gather to worship. From the beginning of Christianity, from the evening of the Resurrection, the community gathered, and when the community gathered, Christians encountered the Risen Christ.

So, what does this mean for all of us? It means that we should come here every weekend expecting to meet Christ. We should not come out of obligation or habit but out of faith and anticipation, believing that Christ is here, and we will encounter Him. It might be in a word, a line that you hear from the Scriptures being proclaimed. It might be from a point in the homily. It could be as you sing the acclamations during the Eucharistic Prayer or as you come forward to receive the real presence of Christ, the Body and Blood of our Savior. It might be as you meet other members of the community who you know or see faith in the face of a stranger. It might be in the music; it might be in the silence. Wherever it is, Christ is here, and we should come expecting to meet Him. The words of John the Baptist should ring in our ears and in our hearts, reminding us why we gather: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Christ is Savior!
Christ is here!
Don’t miss Him!

Fr. Monteleone

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