Summary: Over and over in the Gospels we see the work of Christ culminate in a celebratory banquet, even in the healing of the little girl.

Monday of 5th Week in Course

Feb 4 2012

Sacrosanctum Concilium

The story of Jesus’s raising of the little girl, the daughter of Jairus, is one of the most touching in the Holy Gospels. The incident may have happened in Capernaum, St. Peter’s hometown, and it involved one of the synagogue rulers, probably a Scribe or Pharisee. His plea to Jesus is heartfelt and tugs at the heart, even two thousand years later. Jairus falls at the feet of this itinerant rabbi, as at the feet of a king, and–the Greek is explicit here–cries out in a kind of anguish for Jesus to heal his daughter. And the plea becomes Messianic–“Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” Unless you are a dad who has had a daughter with a serious illness, you probably don’t know grief like this dad’s. He had all the power in the synagogue, but he could not help his child.

As Jesus moves toward the man’s house, he finds the crowd pressing upon him, and he perceives that power has gone out of him for healing. The poor woman comes forward. For a dozen years she has been sick–unclean so she couldn’t even stand in the women’s court of the synagogue–and by merely touching Christ’s garment she was healed and made clean.

Jesus comes to the young girl’s bedside, with everyone saying it was too late. But Jesus says, “do not fear, only believe.” The synagogue crowd of mourners laughs at Jesus when he says she is only asleep. But He proves them wrong. He raises the little girl and restores her to her family, warning everyone that a meal would be in order. Do you think that they invited Jesus to stay for the celebratory dinner?

Of course they did. And that, once again, is the summit of the story–a banquet. The banquet of heaven symbolized by the rising of the little one and the subsequent meal. Jesus provides the reason for the celebration, and in a real sense becomes the host. Over and over in the NT, the kingdom of heaven is shown forth in a banquet–usually a wedding banquet. Here we see Christ’s presence, His apostolic work, in healing two women, His attestation of faith, and a supper.

So the Council Fathers, in a famous passage in Sacrosanctum Concilium, sum up the liturgy:

“Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper. The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with "the paschal sacraments," to be "one in holiness" it prays that "they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith" [27]; the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire. From the liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, as from a font, grace is poured forth upon us; and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God, to which all other activities of the Church are directed as toward their end, is achieved in the most efficacious possible way.

11. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain [28] . Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

Remember that the Council uses the term “actuosa” throughout the document, and it is badly translated as “actively.” The better word, also used here, is “engaged.” Whether we are doing something or paying close attention as Jesus does something through another person, a priest, a deacon, a choir, a psalmist, we must be present, engaged in the action. When we do this, we can be prepared to be engaged with the world as we witness to the world the saving action of Jesus in His Church.

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