The Mass is important because, by the words of Jesus Christ, spoken at the altar, bread and wine become His Body and Blood. The Church teaches us that, as the context for that wonderful event, the prayers of the Mass are inspired by the Holy Spirit (CCC 1124).
Think about the opening prayers for Mass. They are short and can slip by us, but they are given by God. In our opening prayer, we asked God to bestow peace on our times. That is a profound prayer. There is a lot of conflict in the world today and, perhaps for many of us, conflict in our personal lives. Perhaps we should think about what we mean by peace.
The Christian world was shocked when, in 410AD, Rome was invaded and sacked by the Visigoths. St Augustine wrote a profound, and complex, work: The City of God, on what the destruction of the center of Christianity meant for the faith. Without going into the details of this complex work, St Augustine gave us a solid definition of “peace.” Peace he wrote cannot be simply the absence of conflict but must include harmony (City of God book 19, see St. Augustine on International Peace, Herbert Wright, Catholic World, vol. 105).
That is an important reflection for international, national, and personal relations. We are not at war with Iran, but we aren’t exactly bestest buddies. Democrats and Republicans aren’t shooting at each other, but there is an almost universal sense that we Americans have an unhealthy level of political conflict. In our own lives, we are able, hopefully, to avoid aggression, but do we have real harmony with the people around us?
I think the answer is, “not always, not enough.” What can we do?
First and foremost, as in today’s Mass, pray for peace. We need, every day, to pray for God’s help and guidance. We need to remember that the source of conflict, whether physical or emotional, is sin. Few of us have a real influence on world events, but we have control of our own actions. What do I do that resolves, or creates conflict in my life?
Christ came into the world to help us answer that question. In the gospel for this Sunday (John 1:29 – 34) we hear St. John the Baptist say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” We have in the teaching of Christ, given to the apostles, and preserved in Church teaching, sure guidance for full authentic human life. Just as importantly, we have the presence of God in our lives, here and now. We need to pray for peace in the world and peace in our lives. Christ told us that, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:20).
Christ is here to strengthen and guide us in the sacramental life of the Church. As we desire, and work for, peace, as harmony, in the world and in our own lives, we remember that when ever we go to confession or attend Mass, we encounter God.