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Father Muench Says...

United as ‘People of God’ with gift of joy

January 9, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

A New Year – but still the Year of Faith declared by Pope Benedict XVI in October at the time of the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.  A Year of Faith is a time to find new opportunities to strengthen our faith, our faith in God and in ourselves as the People of God. 

The Second Vatican Council reminded us and challenged us that we are one people united together in faith; we are the People of God. This is the call of the Year of Faith - that we become stronger as we are more united together as one people. However, we are becoming fewer and fewer as the People of God joining in prayer and in action.  This is our challenge for this Year of Faith.

In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote this: “God has willed to make men (and women) holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness.”

As the People of God we, you and I, must strengthen that unity, especially as we  join together at the celebration of the Mass. We must also reach out to those who have fallen away from the practice of their faith. 
At Mass, let us never forget we are worshipping together as one people – the People of God.  I often tell people that the first thing they should do as they gather for Mass is to look around. I want to see who is with me that day, who is praying with me (even the strangers), who I am praying for as we unite together for Mass (even the strangers), who is praying for me and all I bring to the Lord. This is why we are there together. 

I am certain that each time I join with people for the celebration of Mass there is someone there who desperately needs my prayers and those of the others in the pews. Sometimes that person is me. At Mass, the Sign of Peace is a wonderful opportunity for me to recognize and unite myself with those who are joined with me at this Mass.
In addition, we must all unite ourselves together as we offer this Blessed Eucharist – consecrating ourselves with the Lord who unites himself with us and unites each of us together as one people, the People of God.

One of the Lord’s gifts to us through the Blessed Eucharist is joy. We must carry that joy into our lives from our Eucharistic celebration.  We must show the world our joy of being together as the People of God. With that joy, any ordinary day becomes very extraordinary, showing all people the joy of being united to the Lord Jesus and to each other as the People of God. This joy must transform the way we live our lives. This joy should reflect our confidence – our hope – in our God – and fill us with the excitement to bring the peace and happiness of Our Savior into all that we are and do.  This joy is God’s gift to us. Much more than a naïve emotion, it is a joy that transforms us, a love that makes us anxious to live well each day. Joy comes when we realize God’s great love for us.  This joy calls us to live like loved people. 

It seems that, although we know well what it means to be a loving person and doing loving things for others, we are not good at knowing how to live like a loved person, filled with the ecstatic joy that come from realizing that God loves us and even forgives us always. 

In this spirit – this joyful spirit of being a loved person – we should be united together as the People of God, always ready to participate together as we worship, always ready to work together to help those in need, always ready to transform our world into a better place. 

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