Offer Communion graces for someone who hurt you

| Father John Paul Erickson | November 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

This question-and-answer column is the last in a series about the new Roman Missal, which will be used in the United States beginning Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

Q: I’ve got the new words of the retranslated prayers down pat. What else can I do to get more out of Mass?

A: Learning the new words of the Mass and becoming comfortable with them will take time. But with some effort and patience on the part of all of us, I am convinced that these words will become just as familiar as our current translation.

The real question remains, however, as to whether or not we will use this time of implementation to make the Mass the center of our whole lives as Christians. I hope and pray that the answer is yes, though this remains to be seen and is wholly dependent on concrete decisions made by us as individual believers.

As we joyfully enter into this new period of our church’s liturgical life, I do have two practical suggestions that I would like to respectfully offer to readers of this column relative to making the Mass a greater part of one’s spiritual life.

The first suggestion has to do with bringing an intention to Mass. The second suggestion has to do with the reception of holy Communion.

Mass offered within a parish setting is generally offered up for a particular intention. While every single Mass is a prayer that truly affects and sanctifies the whole world, nevertheless, the priest celebrant is asked to remember in a particular way at holy Mass some need that is important to the gathered community. Often this is the repose of the soul of a deceased loved one or the prayerful remembrance of an anniversary.

Frequently, the people of God will request a Mass to be offered for a beloved priest or pastoral leader as a sign of gratitude. One of the great joys of a priest’s life, and there are many, is to be able to offer this eternally significant service to the people of God. To know that I hold in my heart the needs of my brothers and sisters in faith at the altar of God provides meaning to my life as a priest.

But what if every single member of the gathered assembly were to bring with them to the Holy Sacrifice some particular intention? And what if, when the priest cries out: “Lift up your hearts,” we were to call to mind this single, focused need that we carry with us on that particular day?

Perhaps it is a prayer for meaningful work. Perhaps it is for a child who has left the faith. Perhaps it is a desperate plea for peace in our war-torn world. Whatever it is, think about it, focus on it, and raise it up at the Mass. Allow the Mass to give voice to this need, to shape it, and to join it to the plethora of needs brought to the Mass by your brothers and sisters to your left and to your right.

A second suggestion is to offer up the graces of your holy Communion for someone you don’t like very much. We are called by Christ to love as God loves, and this means that we are called to love all, including our enemies. To offer up the infinite merits of a worthy reception of holy Communion for one who has slighted us, hurt us or betrayed us is a profoundly Christian act; that is, it is an act of love and mercy.

How do we do this? As you approach the minister of holy Communion, call to mind that individual whom you have trouble loving. Say to God, who is always listening: “I offer this grace for them. Make them holy, Lord, as you are holy, and as you desire me to be holy. Help me to love.” Do not pray: “Make them realize, Lord, how wrong they are” or “May they know how deeply they have hurt me.” This will come, if it ever comes, in God’s own good time. For now, it is enough to simply ask God to bless them.

Responding to the call

Without a doubt, the offering up of the graces of a worthy reception of holy Communion for those who have hurt us can be a powerful moment in the process of forgiveness, which rarely means a complete elimination of disappointment or frustration. Rather, Christian forgiveness means that we are willing to sincerely pray for the other and to let go of the idea of inflicting or passively allowing vengeance for the wrong done to us or another.

A desire for authentic justice is never a sin. But vengeance, that is, the infliction of pain on another in retaliation for the pain inflicted on oneself, is indeed sinful and must be abandoned at the sacrifice of love that is the Mass.

“Lift up your hearts.” Dare we respond to this call? Dare we lift them up to the Lord? May the answer be a resounding yes, so that we might love and so that we might live.

Changing words is the easy part on Nov. 27. Changing our lives? May we be given the many graces we need to do just that.

Father John Paul Erickson is director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

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Category: New Roman Missal