The Branch - July 29, 2018
Aug 15, 2018
Occasionally, I find myself on autopilot for responses or songs during Mass. The words come out of my mouth by rote. I, and anyone around me, can catch when this happens because I fall back into pre-2010 responses. When I reflect on the words, I find a line from Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows pop into my head: “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” I shall leave the conundrum of quoting a wizard in a Catholic parish bulletin for a later date. I will simply say that I intend no offense.
For now, I want to share with you the words that stand out the most to me at Mass. Those words are: again, as, and lead.
First, let’s look at “again". Specifically, in the Apostles' or the Nicene Creed, this word used to give me trouble. The line “Jesus rose again from the dead". Wait, what? How did he rise again? After 12 years of Catholic education, I am pretty sure that Jesus rose once from the dead. So, what is going on with the word again? Imagine my mind being blown when I learned that the word “again" could also mean “renewed" or “refreshed". So, the Creeds tell us that Jesus rose refreshed or renewed. Well, that makes more sense!
Next up, “as" always bothered me. This troublesome word occurs in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There's no hope of a linguistic escape clause here as for again. The simple word as presents a tremendously difficult challenge for me. Each time I say the Lord’s Prayer, I am asking God to forgive me as I forgive others. Yikes! That's a tall order! I remind myself frequently that I must forgive others for any hope of being forgiven. In addition to my own salvation, failing to forgive someone hurts me more than anyone. The instructions are clear; my spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Lastly, “lead” from the phrase “...lead us not into temptation...” As a young man, this used to also cause me great confusion. I remember asking my religion teacher in high school, “Why would God lead me into temptation?” I always thought that seemed more like the job of the other guy (the one with horns and a pitchfork). The phrase itself is odd, but it does acknowledge that faith is tested, and we face trials. Those tests and trials call for strength. And what is the source of that strength? God! The very last part of the Lord’s Prayer tells us that God will deliver us from evil. This is hope in our trials.
So, there it is. Words that stand out to me during every Mass. I solved the mystery of again, strive every day to achieve the goal set by as, and unraveled the meaning of lead. May God bless us and grant us his grace and mercy!