‘Hmmm…that’s different,’ I thought this morning as our Pastor began the Eucharistic Prayer at daily Mass.
And indeed, it was: He chose one of the Reconciliation versions – well suited for these early days of Lent.
The text of the prayer is extraordinary…almost like a tender, forgiving hug from God. The Preface sets the tone:
It is truly right and just that we should always give You thanks…eternal God…for You do not cease to spur us on to possess a more abundant life and, being rich in mercy, You constantly offer pardon and call on sinners to trust in Your forgiveness alone.
Never did You turn away from us, and, though time and again we have broken Your covenant, You have bound the human family to yourself through Jesus…with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone.
Even now You set before Your people a time of grace and reconciliation, and, as they turn back to You in spirit, You grant them hope in Christ Jesus…
When I heard those words, I felt awash in God’s mercy. Truly beloved.
All of a sudden, the mental conversation wasn’t about what I was giving up for Lent…but what I was getting, what I was being offered during this holy season: a high-speed link to God’s prodigal love and forgiveness.
And as our Pastor continued with the Eucharistic Prayer, reverently reciting the words of institution and then moving on into its closing paragraphs, I was jolted again – this time, by the unusual way in which this version of the prayer calls us to action:
Help us to work together for the coming of Your Kingdom, until the hour when we stand before You, Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven…
What a beautiful image!
For me, it called to mind the soul-stirring events of the past seven days. I remembered how, just a week ago, I’d witnessed a dear aunt’s passing. She died last Friday afternoon, just 28 hours or so after her husband had passed away.
Married late in life, Rita and John lived one of the best love stories I’d ever been privileged to see. And even their act of dying became a source of grace for me – a glimpse into those very same halls of heaven.
I recounted that moment in my eulogy at their funeral Mass on Monday. I recalled how I’d been sitting with my aunt—just the two of us—on Thursday evening, a few hours after her beloved had died.
We were chatting a bit, and praying…when all of a sudden, a beautiful thought occurred to me about the “Schroeder family reunion” that must be going on in heaven at that very moment.
I realized that John was finally getting his chance to meet my grandparents, Ambrose and Gertie, face to face. And he was getting to meet my Dad, Tony…and all my deceased aunts and uncles, too.
Saints among the saints, in the halls of heaven.
And you know what? When I said all that to Rita, her face brightened – and just for a moment – I got to see the familiar twinkle in her eye, one last time. Even in her grief and pain, her heartfelt gratitude shone through, for having been given the gift of her husband and her family.
It was almost like the two of us had received a divine gift by special delivery in that moment – a gift that had meaning for us, and for us alone.
The truth is bigger than that, of course.
Sure, God blessed us with that grace-filled moment last week…but as the Eucharistic prayer reminded me this morning, God’s bounty is constantly being poured out on me…and on all of us saints-in-the-making.
What a great gift this season of Lent is, I realized: A chance to immerse ourselves in that bounty. A chance for each one of us to embrace the finest treasure, close at hand.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.