Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Sermon – October 30, 2011 – Ite Missa Est

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31 Sunday Ordinary Time – October 30, 2011 – Ite Missa Est

Malachi 1:14b-2:2b,8-10, Psalm 131:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9,13, Matthew 23:1-12

A great many of you come to this church quite often. Do you feel safe and secure here? Does worship here provide you with some relief from the challenges at work, home and school? Is it a place where you can bring your sorrows and joys? Do you find God here?

Where else can people meet for an hour to pray, sit quietly, sing songs, share sacred food, drink and signs of peace? You know the commercial about Las Vegas. “What goes on here, stays here.” Well, what goes on here in this church does not stay here. There is a country out there that desperately needs a bit of the sweet honey that stirs our spirits in this holy place.

You might think it seems strange that while local and global communities are in financial strain here at St. Vincent’s we are talking about the way we worship and a new translation. Liturgy is no small matter. What we do here matters. It is connected to and can shape our everyday lives.

To guide our renewed appreciation of public worship we have spoken about preparing for the liturgy, listening to God’s Word, setting the table with our gifts and grasping the Eucharist as holy things for holy people. Today we come to a topic about the end of the liturgy — the dismissal rites. What are we being dismissed to do? What do we do after Mass? How do we carry the principles of peace and justice celebrated here beyond this place? In the words of Paul to the Thessalonians heard today, “How do we put God’s Word to work?”

Some of the inspiring and game changing teachings of the Vatican Two Ecumenical Council are worth remembering. All people of God are called to holiness not just those who are ordained. All baptized persons are members of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We share different gifts and functions for the common good, not for our own gain. Faith and good works are essential partners in the ministry of the church. We cannot have one without the other.

What we experience during worship can open up possibilities for the world, our lives, after liturgy. Inspired by each other’s presence, moved by the holy spirit, provoked by the word of God, nourished by body and blood of Christ, you and I dare to return to our everyday communities fired up to be radically influential in the public square.

Last week the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace issued a statement called “Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of the global public authority.”  The title is a mouth full but so is the document. It stated “Every individual and every community shares in promoting and preserving the common good. To be faithful to their ethical and religious vocation, communities of believers should take the lead in asking whether the human family has adequate means at its disposal to achieve the global common good.” How do we do that? Who is doing that?

Kate Ward, who grew up in our parish and is now a doctoral student in theological ethics at Boston College, is a model of someone taking the lead to put God’s Word to work. She contributes to The Theology Salon, a blog that deals with theology and social, political, and economic life in the United States. In her comment on this Vatican document, Kate wrote: “It’s a rich starting point for further dialogue, and an inspiring reminder that at least one small group of powerful, wealthy men believes[I think she is referring to the clergy in the Vatican] — as do the protestors [she is speaking about Occupy Wall Street] — that a more just, humane world economy is possible.”

Kate Ward’s blog and her research is but one example of what you and I can when “the Mass is over.” There are many possibilities and opportunities for carrying out the word of God in matters of justice and peace in our daily routines. All we have to do is find one, pick one and do something about it. Don’t leave your spirit here.

As we plan to begin using the new Roman Missal on the First Sunday of Advent there are concerns about the translation. Regarding the words for the dismissal at the end of Mass Pope Benedict explains [in Sacramentum Caritatis #51], “In antiquity, missa simply meant ‘dismissal.’ In Christian usage, however, it gradually took on a deeper meaning. The word ‘dismissal’ has come to imply a ‘mission.’ These few words [writes the Pope] succinctly express the missionary nature of the Church.”

Liturgical language is very important and I will talk about it next Sunday. However, the words we use at Mass are not the only things to be concerned about. As today’s gospel reminded us, how we practice what we preach also demands our attention.


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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

3 thoughts on “Sermon – October 30, 2011 – Ite Missa Est

  1. This was a wonderfully thought provoking sermon. I was particularly struck with the idea that the specific ways we celebrate liturgy has a direct impact on how we fulfill our mission on a daily basis. Although it is not a new thought, I heard it in a new way in the context of a sermon on the parts of the mass, especially the dismissal. Although the impact of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Word have been central to my life, it is very inspiring to highlight the fact that we inspire one another. In thinking about the many new and familiar faces I see at liturgy I can say that their presence is as much a sacred experience as anything else during our public worship. I am happy to be learning about the various components of the liturgy as we approach the upcoming changes in Advent. It’s making me think, meditate and pray about the changes in a different way than I may have otherwise.

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  2. No surprise that Kim’s words above captured the essence of your sermon so well. What challenged me was a renewed look at connecting what we do in Liturgy to what we are called to do in the world. ‘Find something and do it’ you said. I walked away thinking “am I really going to expend a lot of energy on the words that ‘they’ feel are critical’ in the liturgy? It is of secondary importance to what I believe and what I do. It makes me sad that (thanks for the Kate Ward blog) ‘small group of rich powerful men’ found it so important to expend so much time, energy and money on the words in our Liturgy – which is being interpreted by many as a way to keep us in line. We are the Word. What are we going to do?

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  3. Father Vosko, I’m honored to have you referencing our blog and thanks so much for your kind words. Blessings to you and the St. Vincent’s community!

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