Modes of encounter with Christ in his people

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a truly memorable phrase: “There is nothing more beautiful than the encounter with Christ.” Specifically, in the celebration of Mass, we meet him in his people, in his Word proclaimed, in Holy Communion shared, and in the Minister presiding.

In what follows, we will reflect on how we encounter Christ in the congregation as we gather in faith for the celebration.

Jesus has said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am with you.” That is why during Mass the priest or deacon greets the congregation four times with the words “The Lord be with you” at the beginning, just after the Sign of the Cross, when we stand for the Gospel, at the introductory dialogue to the Eucharistic prayer and at the end before the blessing.

These are alert calls to be spiritually aware of the abiding and living presence of Jesus our Risen Lord with us. St. Paul reminds us that “Christ lives in our heart through faith” and “in him we live and move and have our very existence. He is the peace between us”.

When I ponder these words and believe them in my heart, I become aware of how truly privileged and blessed I am through the presence of every person in the Church. Every parent and child, every person struggling with faith or problems in life, communicates to me by their very presence the overflowing love of Jesus for each of us.

Parents who are now taking their child to Mass every Sunday as they prepare for First Holy Communion are nurturing them into a deep awareness of the love and friendship of Jesus for each of us.

I leave you to ponder this alternative greeting at the beginning of Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” We are immersed in a four-fold relationship of love with Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit and the people gathered with us. Blessed be God forever.