Welcome again to a little liturgy. I hope you have been able to find something useful. I have certainly enjoyed discovering more about Isaiah over the last few weeks in an attempt to make more sense of the first readings. Today we come to rather more comfortable territory for me in Exodus - phew!
My son reports that he was a bit unsure about what to do in the activity for Mass last week. I now realise that it was one that required a bit of explanation and preparation! My aim is for the Mass activity in green to be simple and be able to be done by the child alone during Mass. Its focus is the liturgy and its purpose to enhance concentration and awareness of what is happening at Mass. Older children may also wish to read the discussion in yellow. The activity in red deals with the wider issues arising in the readings or prompted by the season and is designed for use at home.
The Lord speaks to Moses and says that the Israelites must behave well to all people. He reminds them that they were once strangers when they were slaves in Egypt so now they must be kind to strangers. God says that he will listen to those who cry out to him because they have been mistreated and he will take revenge for them.
Ps 17:2-4, 47, 51. R. v.2
Response: I love you, Lord my strength.
(Praised be the God who saves me)
First letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians 1:5-10
St Paul congratulates the people of Thessalonika for following Christ and imitating him, despite encountering great opposition. They left their old religion (idolatry) and are now waiting for Jesus to come again from heaven.
The Pharisees continue to try to test Jesus and ask him "which is the greatest commandment of the Law?" he replies:
"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."
He says that that is the first and greatest commandment and that the second commandment is:
"you must love your neighbour as yourself."
He states that the rest of the Jewish Law and the writings of the prophets are all based on these two ideas.
The First Reading and the Gospel both explain how we should treat other people (strangers and neighbours). This shows us the connection between the Jewish Law (in the Old Testament) and Christ's example in the Gospels (New Testament). The commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves is one of the most famous and most challenging of Christ's utterances. It shows a renewed focus on service to others that is based in the old law but that people may have forgotten.
The Pharisees came to Jesus to disconcert him but his answer summed up the whole of their tradition which, in turn, forms the basis of the Christian tradition.
There are many examples of Jesus being kind to strangers and those who society shuns. Think about the stories Jesus tells about the Good Samaritan. He also goes to supper with Zacchaeus (a tax collector) and heals the lepers. All these people were avoided in society but Jesus treats them as neighbours. He is also kind to women who often struggled to be respected in society. (e.g. the widow of Nain in Luke 7:11-17 and the woman in John 8:3-11).
We could think about people who might feel excluded from society in our own time and how we might show our love for them.
Activity during Mass
The Gospel speaks of loving God.
We are told by Jesus that it is important to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Consider what each of these ways of loving God means. Can you suggest what Jesus may have meant by each of these concepts?
Below are some words and actions from the Mass to help you think about this A), B), C) and D). Put a tick by each when you come across them today.
A) When we greet the Gospel we make a small cross on our forehead, our lips and our chest. This shows that we wish God's message to influence our thoughts, our words and our feelings.
B) At the start of the Eucharistic prayer are the following words:
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right and just.
C) One of the prayers that the priest says quietly before he receives communion asks God that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ may be a "protection in mind and body".
D) Before Holy Communion we say:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
Traditionally Christians have spoken about "body" and "soul" and also "spirit". There have been many debates as to how these are separate or bound together. Consider what we mean by these terms.
Jesus also says it is important to love our neighbour.
Listen out for the phrases below during Mass.
1) peace to people of good will
2) as we forgive those who trespass against us
3) peace be with you - and with your spirit
All these phrases make us aware of the need to consider our neighbour.
Other activities and useful resources
Think about the Ten Commandments that Moses received from God.
click here to see a picture
click here for list of Ten Commandments
How do these commandments suggest that we love our neighbour?
Try to discover what other Laws are given in the Old Testament - start by finding out what is said in the Books called Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Are all these laws relevant today?
A traditional prayer called the "Magnificat" or the "Canticle of Mary" begins with the words:
"My soul magnifies the lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour"
click here for the full text
The text is based on Mary's words in Luke 1: 46-55 and it interesting to know that Mary speaks of having a soul and spirit with which to praise God. Mary, of course, was Jewish and we can see here another link between the way we praise God as Christians and the way the Jewish people in Christ's time prayed.
Last week's question:
Q. If we believe in the Trinity how can Jesus really have died for three days, since that would mean that God died?
(Not an easy one!)
In our limited world view, rational thinking suggests to us that if Jesus "suffered death and was buried" and if he is "consubstantial" or "of one being with the father" then God the father and indeed God the Holy Spirit must also have suffered death. But we also often refer to God as "eternal", "immortal" and "everlasting".
The Catechism is a good place to look to help us think more carefully about this. It says that each of the persons of the trinity is "God whole and entire" (253). On the other hand, it states that "the divine persons are really distinct from one another" (254).
These statements seem rather contradictory. And indeed, in the early church there was much debate and uncertainty about the relationships between each person of the trinity and especially how Christ could be both God and man. Eventually it became accepted that Christ could be both fully divine and fully human. This idea became known as "the doctrine of the hypostatic union". Christ was the "word" who became flesh.
If we look again at the Catechism (264-268), we can see that death is defined as the separation of body from soul. So Jesus died in the sense that his soul left his body, just as when we die, our soul will be separated from our body. However, at the resurrection, Jesus' soul was reunited with his human body. So we could say that the external, physical aspect of Jesus died but his soul did not. Just as Jesus existed before the incarnation (being born on earth), he continued to exist after he died on earth.
I hope these ideas may go some way to helping you develop your thoughts on this question! Please leave comments and suggest any other reading that you find useful.
My Muslim friends pray several times a day at set times. Why don't Christians do the same?
Watch out for the answer next week!
Have a good week!