Sacraments: both ordinary and extraordinary
Every once in a while, someone asks me what it’s like to celebrate Mass. It’s not always the same, I tell them. Sometimes I’m very conscious of what is happening, and it’s very powerful. Sometimes, external things distract me, and I am frustrated, not able to focus. Other times, I have to be careful not to enter into the Mass so deeply that I forget that I’m leading others in prayer. And, some days, it just seems like going through the motions.
Interestingly, some today are attracted to the Catholic Church because they prefer the “sameness” of Catholic worship to the light shows and fog machines found elsewhere. We can forget the value of going through the motions. Maybe John’s baptism of Jesus was strictly unnecessary, but it did “fulfill all righteousness,” and it did inspire a voice from the heavens. Its extraordinariness was apparent. By contrast, our experience of the Sacraments can sometimes seem like just dull routine. But the beauty of the Sacraments is that the more ordinary they seem, the more extraordinary the grace they offer us is. A voice from the sky might terrify us, but the soft lull of prayer and the ordinary material of the sacramental bring us comfort, and assurance of grace, no matter the circumstances.
In the reading from Acts today, we hear about Jesus who “went about doing good” (Acts 10: 34-38). This theme is also in today’s accompanying prayer, from the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer for various needs and occasions, offered for all of us.
Bring your Church, O Lord,
to perfect faith and charity,
together with Francis our Pope, with all Bishops, Priests, Deacons,
and the entire people you have made your own.
Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters;
inspire in us words and actions
to comfort those who labor and are burdened.
Make us serve them truly,
after the example of Christ and at his command.
And may your Church stand as a living witness
to truth and freedom, to peace and justice,
that all people may be raised up to a new hope.
—Taken from the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer for various needs and occasions