The ever-fresh confession: 'My Lord and my God!'
We've all seen cartoons or sitcoms where the father of a family at church has dozed off during a sermon and, upon being nudged awake, sits up, asking "whuh?" and tries to reorient himself.
If the father is Homer Simpson, a measure of drool might be involved.
When the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council began to be implemented in parishes around the world, the transitioning would sometimes throw people off a little. We could no longer attend Mass with a slack jaw and a wandering mind. Too much was new in translation, and if we made a mistake, we would make it for the whole assembly, so "awake O sleeper" was the order of the day.
Change does that. It shakes us out of our comfort zones, makes us sit up, pay attention and get our bearings so that we don't get lost.
Of course, change is never objectively good or bad; it is a subjective thing. But when we are in the midst of change, we tend to cling to what is familiar and loved. For me, the moment of consecration has always been that unchanging thing -- the extraordinary moment when the veil between heaven and earth is at its thinnest and Christ Jesus is made present under the appearance of bread and wine.
The consecration has not changed and for many of us, neither has our response to the brilliant Host of the ultimate reality. At its elevation, the words always come: "My Lord and my God."
At Mass, my family would always sit about three quarters of the way down on the left side. From that vantage point, I had an unobstructed view of the altar. At the time, the liturgical changes of Vatican II were just beginning to be implemented, and the priest still faced East. Some of the prayers were in the vernacular, but the consecration bells still rang out. As they did, I would make that marvelous confession which my mother had taught me, my whispers rising along with my awe-struck eyes: "My Lord and my God!"
It was a week after the Resurrection, the Octave of Easter, that those words were spoken first. Jesus appeared in the midst of his closest friends, and this time, Thomas, the twin and a doubter, was with them. When he realized that Jesus was indeed alive and marvelously in his humanity, Thomas fell to his knees, and exclaimed those words. Having placed his fingers into the nail marks, and his hand into Jesus' wounded side, the doubter no longer doubted, but believed.
It is a venerable tradition to repeat the confession when we gaze upon the consecrated host, as a way of witnessing to our belief in those things unseen, yet nonetheless real. Jesus wasn't kidding when he said, "I am with you, always, until the end of the age," and he is certainly able to be with us at each and every moment -- but especially in a most tangible and marvelous way in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
We are a blessed people to be able to find the physical presence of Christ in almost every town and time zone, ready to welcome us if we are making a visitation.
- Bishop Robert Reed is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, pastor of Sacred Heart/St. Patrick Church in Watertown and president of the CatholicTV network.