July 22, 2015
By Father William Muench
I am firmly convinced that one of the important prayers at Mass is the opening song, often called the gathering hymn. This song gives an initial message that helps us to understand the theme of today’s Mass.
I encourage people at Mass to follow the prayer that is the opening song even if they do not sing. Many people say to me – “I am such a bad singer – so they seem to ignore the opening song of the Mass.” My response to them is that they may be missing an important prayer of the Mass. So, I encourage them all to follow the prayer, to say the words even if they don’t sing the song to let the words of this prayer touch their lives.
Let me give you an example. The opening song at our Mass on a recent Sunday was “All Are Welcome.” The song begins by everyone declaring that we all want to make our Church community a place of love. “Let us build a house where love can dwell. And all can safely live.”
This house is not a building. It is a community, a Church family that all of us present would like to form by our love.
The song goes on – “A place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.”
This song declares that we are all united as saints and children. Our faith in God gives us and leads us to holiness and gives us the grace to live good and loving lives. This is what it means to be a saint. Actually, this road to sanctity is not impossible or even highly difficult. Jesus gives us the strength and power to live good lives, to avoid evil, to become saints.
I have often had people say to me, “Well, Father, I’m no saint.” My response to them is “then you better get busy. This is what our life here is all about.” We know that Jesus will lead us and guide us on the road to sanctity.
We are the children of God. As we join together at Mass – as the children of God – we are preparing to celebrate the Blessed Eucharist and unite ourselves with the Lord in Holy Communion. As children of God, we find our destiny through the message of Our Savior, Jesus. We find love and peace as children of God. The song reminds us that as children of God, we are to develop forgiving hearts. We are to be forgiving as we believe God forgives us.
The song goes on “Built of hopes and dreams and visions. Rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions.”
So, we pray and sing at the beginning of this Mass. We pray that the love of Christ will flood this place, this congregation, so that we will be united with no divisions. We are one family, the family of the Lord, and we pray that our family will be a “rock of faith and vault of grace.”
Then comes the refrain, a refrain that is our message to the world, a refrain that declares our vision of our Church: “All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome in this place.”
All are welcomed to pray with our family, with our parish family, with our Church, even strangers. They are welcomed to become part of our family. As the family of the Lord, we want everyone, even the visitors to our community, and especially those present who may be sinners seeking the Lord to feel welcome.
“All are welcoming.” We want them to be part with us. They will pray with us; we will pray for them and we ask them to pray with and for us.
This is only one verse of the song – there are several. There are many, many hymns that are prayers that will draw us ever closer to God.
So, don’t miss the wonderful prayers that are these wonderful hymns.