Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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The liturgy and inclusion
by Father Jan Larson
(From the July 29, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
It is no accident that the celebration of the Eucharist is set within the context of a meal. The Last Supper of Jesus, and the Mass today, are symbolic of the eternal banquet to which all are invited, and thus they also symbolize the kingdom or reign of God when that kingdom is fully realized. So Jesus, in Luke 22:16, would say at the Last Supper that he will not eat this Passover again “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” The liturgy we celebrate reflects, images, what the kingdom of God will be like once it is fulfilled and completed.
It is for this reason that liturgy and justice are so closely related. Justice, in its earliest Biblical foundations, happens when life and creation are just the way God intended them to be. Justice happens whenever people experience the kingdom or reign of God taking hold of things. The Biblical roots of justice also tell us that God has a special concern for the poor and the marginalized of society, and that one of the signs that the kingdom of God has arrived is when people begin to be regarded as equal in God’s eyes, all of them having been created in the divine image and likeness, all of them free from the scourge of prejudice and intolerance.
God’s efforts at kingdom-building are challenged when individuals and groups of people experience needless exclusion and intolerance. For example, there have been stories about the exclusion of women from an exclusive golf club, or the exclusion of an atheist or a gay person from the Scouts – scenes that ought to make us who await the kingdom shake our heads in dismay. Some offer as a shallow defense of such exclusion that private groups have the freedom of association, and that such discrimination is legal discrimination. But we know from our own American history, if not from the most primitive parts of our consciences, that something is not necessarily good or moral simply because it is legal or enjoys popular support. Slavery and institutionalized segregation were once legal, but also thoroughly immoral.
Liturgy, for the hour or so that we are there, offers us a glimpse of what the kingdom will be like. For that hour, everyone is equal, everyone is welcome, everyone is sprinkled and blessed, everyone hears God’s word, everyone who is prepared for the banquet is invited to the holy table, without exception. Liturgy offers us a strong experience of commonness and solidarity. In the liturgy there is a place, a corporate act, where all people are radically equal, where financial and political kings are on a level with society’s marginalized, where the distinctions of daily life which separate people from one another and make them different from one another are transcended. The good news we celebrate each week is news of a coming kingdom of love, equality, tolerance, solidarity and peace. With that kind of kingdom faith energizing our hearts, we pray to the Father, in one of our Eucharistic prayers, that the gift of the Spirit sent by Jesus “might take away all that divides us.”
(Father Larson is a priest of and liturgical consultant for the Archdiocese of Seattle.)