The Two Lungs of the Mass

The Mass is made up of two parts, which I like to refer to as the two lungs of the Mass. In celebrating the Mass, we use the two lungs to breathe in the life of God given to us in Jesus and, we breathe out the mission which Jesus has commissioned us to do.

The first lung of the Mass is The Liturgy of the Word. Our focus is at the Table of the Word, the lectern. We listen to the Word of God given to us by the many holy people of the Old Testament who made a way for Jesus to come into the world as one of us. We listen to the Word of God given to us by the very earliest saints of the New Testament – names like Paul and Peter – who tell about the impact that Jesus had on their lives. And, we listen to the Word of God that is directly about Jesus Christ given to us by the four writers of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In the Gospel we hear about Jesus and that He asked us to be like Him and to do great things in memory of Him. In this lung of the Mass we breathe in the life of Jesus that is presented to us in “holy words about God”.

The second lung of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Our focus is centred on the Table of the Eucharist, the altar. Our minds and our hearts move gently from gazing at The Word, to gazing at the altar. At the altar we live again the events of the first Holy Thursday when Jesus gathered his disciples around Him to “break the bread” and to “drink from the cup”. At the Table Jesus said, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood” and, then He said, “Do this in memory of me”. So, when our focus is at the altar, we are remembering Jesus and, everything that He did for us. In this lung of the Mass we breathe in the Sacrament of Jesus: Jesus and I become one.

The two lungs of the Mass give us life. The Mass is the greatest gift that the Church can offer us: it is Jesus who died and who rose from the dead. As these two lungs rhythmically move in and out with every breath, we receive everything that we need for life. It’s like the root system of a big tree: the roots providing every bit of sustenance the tree needs for the tree to grow. In the same way, the lungs of the Mass provide us with everything we need to grow to become more like Jesus. The Mass, therefore, is “the source” of our lives. We need the Mass! We need to breathe in the Word and the Sacrament of the Mass to live lives worthy of who God wants us to be. And, the Mass empowers us to go out to be and to live what God wants us to be. We are sent out – into our families, our workplaces, to every one we will ever meet – to be the life of Jesus for others. The Mass, therefore, is truly “the summit” of everything we will do “in the name of God”. As we reflect on the Mass, we use its two lungs to be more and more like God wants us to be. The Mass – our life – is certainly the best event we can ever participate in to become the best persons we can be! 

Fr Ron D Peters
Dean of the Cathedral / Administrator of the Pastoral Region
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6 November 2016

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