Short and sweet this week
When most Catholics are asked how many scripture passages are assigned to the Sunday Mass they’ll answer 3. They are quick to remember the 1st reading, 2nd reading and the Gospel. When asked if there are more, and with a little more thought they throw in the psalm. Yet, that is still not all of the scriptures readings that are assigned to a particular Mass. We still have our alleluia verse, or during Lent our Gospel Acclimation.
There are two additional verses that are assigned to each Mass which usually do not come to mind because we have an option which often replaces these other two verses. Using our common terminology, these two verses would be the opening antiphon and the communion antiphon. I’ll have to admit that occasionally, these verses are not strictly taken from scriptures, but they allude to the feast which is being celebrated. It is common in many places to use the option for a hymn in place of one or both of these verses. Those who attend daily Mass know that I routinely use a hymn in place of the introit, or opening antiphon, but I recite the communion antiphon.
That being said, I’d like to share the introit that is assigned to our celebration of this Third Sunday of Advent, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” This comes from the fourth chapter of Phillipians, verses 4 and 5.
I sometimes wonder if we are truly filled with the joy that this holy season anticipates. I know from my own experience that it is easy to get caught up in the stress of the season as opposed to the joy of the season. But, even when we get away from the stress, what is the source of our joy? Is it the fact that we’ll be gathering with friends and family? Is it watching our children preform in their winter concerts? Is it the joy we have because we’ve reached out to someone else in need during this holy time of year?
As joyful as each of these events may be, there is something far greater in which we rejoice. We rejoice in the Lord who is near. Sometimes we need to really work on rejoicing in the Lord. It starts with our relationship with the Lord. How often do we spend time in prayer? When we do pray, how much time do we spend? Do we look forward to the opportunity to pray, or do we try to avoid prayer time? Do we “have to go to Mass because it’s Sunday”, or do we “get to go to Mass”? How we answer each of these questions gives us an idea about how we are doing as far as rejoicing in the Lord.
What do we do if our focus on the coming of Christ has gotten off track? The first thing we do is start with prayer, preferably before Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. We should, in our prayer, ask God to help us fall in love with the Mass. As we fall in love with the Mass, we can look forward to attending Mass, not only on Sunday, but on other days as our schedules allow. As we fall in love with the Mass, we also come to appreciate the other sacraments as well.
The second half of our antiphon deals with the fact that the Lord is near. He will soon return. As we fall in love with Christ, it is easy to rejoice about the fact that he is near. Just as we get excited about the family and friends that will be joining us when we celebrate Christ’s first coming at Christmas, we can look forward with joy to his return in glory.