5th Sunday of Easter
During the Eucharistic prayer, that heart of the Holy Mass when the Bread and Wine are changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, when the sacrifice of Calvary is made present on the altar and offered to God the Father – your attention should not be on the priest and the priest’s attention should not be on you. You should not be looking at the priest and the priest should not be looking at you – rather together Priest and people should be looking at the Lord Jesus and with him looking towards God the Father, looking forward, looking beyond ourselves.
This used to be beautifully symbolised by the fact that for almost two thousand years - up to even my life time, during the Eucharistic prayer, priest and people, stood together, united – facing the Lord, our attention upon him and not on each other.
We must be careful not to lose that special attitude now that most churches expect the priest to be separated from the people by the altar. Today’s readings offer some further aspects to consider. In the 2nd reading St John speaks of the new Jerusalem, the place where God lives among men, the place where there are no more tears and death is no more. When we celebrate Holy Mass – we join in this heavenly Jerusalem – the Lord is with us, the angels, the Saints and Our Blessed Lady are gathered with us in adoration as the spotless Lamb of God, risen from the dead is offered to the Father. Yet at the same time it is not yet here – we are still journeying, we have not reached our heavenly home, we still experience tears and death. This tension between the heavenly Jerusalem and our present earthly life is symbolised by our turning to our Lord during the Eucharistic prayer ( in our hearts at least if not physically)– it is as if we are looking forward expectantly to the heavenly Jerusalem, recognising that there is more than this life, we are not gathered in a huddle looking at each other but rather together we follow the Lord, he leads, he goes ahead of us, we look forward in hope to the heavenly Jerusalem that is to come, like the children of Israel following the Lord through the dessert with their hope fixed on the promised land.
This relates too to the Gospel – Jesus is beginning to teach his disciples that he must go – not just to the cross but after his resurrection he must return in glory to heaven, he prepares them for the sending of the Holy Spirit and for his return in Glory at the end of time. As we proclaim through out Mass “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”, “we proclaim your death O Lord and profess your resurrection until you come again”and “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ”. Even if not doing so physically we should, in our minds, be looking the same way, facing the future, looking towards the Lord, waiting in expectant hope.
Keeping this attitude in mind helps me to pray the Eucharistic prayer. I receive a great spiritual support from you because you are with me at the Altar, standing with me before God. I know that I am not performing a Mass for you looking at me on the other side of the altar, but rather that you and I together are offering the Holy Mass for our salvation and the salvation of the world.
Some of you may find a help in remembering that we concentrate on the Lord, not each other, at Mass we mostly talk to the Lord, not each other, at Mass we are on a journey of hope, looking forward to the new Jerusalem, following the Lord in the hope of his return, offering to the Father the sacrifice of Calvary, at Mass it’s the Lord not me, the Lord not you, the Lord not us, but in concentrating on the Lord we truly become what we are the pilgrim people of God, united in our Journey to heaven.