"Lift Up Your Heart"

For the next five Sundays, we will be hearing the Gospel of John.  During Ordinary Time, the lectionary focuses on one evangelist at a time: Matthew in Year A, Luke in Year C, and Mark in Year B.  However, because Mark is the shortest Gospel, the Gospel of John is proclaimed for five weeks, with the focus on the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life. 

This Sunday’s Gospel offers us a simple lesson: divine nourishment.  Seeing people as sheep without a shepherd, he “taught them many things.” On this occasion, he fed them with physical bread. The question is, how do we receive this divine nourishment at Mass?

The obvious answer is to hear the Word of God proclaimed to us and to receive the Eucharist.  Yes, but the manner by which we receive is crucial. 

Mass is a familiar ritual, especially for cradle Catholics who have attended Mass thousands of times.  Because of this, we tend to go on automatic pilot mode during Mass.  We forget that we are in Christ’s presence.  “Lift up your heart” is the invitation and reminder for us to be present in the moment. The Church invites us into the “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgy.  Without this consciousness, we go through a routine and Mass becomes a boring experience. 

The Church teaches us that Christ is present in many ways in the liturgical celebration. Christ is present in the priest, in the Word, in the consecrated bread and wine, and in the gathering of people who pray and sing together as a community, “Where two or three gather together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

It’s easy to think that Christ is only present in the bread and wine and the tabernacle and forget about Christ’s presence elsewhere in our lives.  Just as some people seem to endure the hymn, others come alive when they sing, some retreat into silence, some respond loudly, some withdraw to be alone, and some reach out to others.  Christ is present to us in many ways.  We should be fully present fully in every way.  We never know how God will reach out to us in any given moment. 

We hear people say they want to do something “for” God. This is good, but we also need to be “with” God, especially in the Eucharistic celebration.  He is truly present to us to nourish us, so we can go forth guided in His will for us. 

Kathryn Richards