Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The List

I wonder. Does your parish have a list? 

I mean a list of names that get read out at some point during the liturgy. They seem to be the same old names week after week, and you never quite know who these people are. Why not? Because they are often too sick to come to Church, and so you never meet them. For many people, even those who have been there a long time, it seems rather odd to be praying for people whom you don't actually know and will probably never meet.

It's obvious why we do it. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves. These folk are ill. We pray to God for their healing and wholeness in the sure and certain hope through our faith that He will hear our prayer and give them that peace that the world cannot give.

I find it truly wonderful that we can still offer to God sacrifices but without the bloodshed of so many animals, Actually, that's what makes the sacrifice so great: if we hold animals to be of great value, then offering them up becomes a true sacrifice. Of course, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we know that the blood of animals is not enough to reconcile humanity with God. In the Mass, we offer the sacrifice with the Blood of Christ shed once for all upon the altar of the Cross. The Mass is a sacrifice, and the names on the list become part of our intentions for offering this One Perfect Oblation.

But what are we praying for, and why aren't we praying for everybody?

During the Offertory the Priest says, and the people pray: "We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the cup of salvation, humbly mercy: that in the sight of Thy divine majesty it may ascend as a sweet-smelling savour for our salvation and for that of the whole world."

We do indeed pray for everyone in the Canon of the Mass, the living and departed alike, for all their intentions. The purpose of Mass is to make present the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the good of the world and this does mean that we are presenting everyone's problems to Our Lord. He is concerned with our everyday lives, even at the minutiae, but the chief concern of the Christian Soul is to seek first the kingdom of God in times of trouble and in times of joy. God is an infinite resource and can micromanage things where it is necessary, but also wishes us to exercise free-will and thus may often choose to withdraw from micromanagement. The Lord is economical with His power, for our benefit.

Yes, we pray for all who suffer and we are to suffer with them. Yet it is not possible for one man in Toronto to suffer with an unknown little child in pain on the banks of the Ganges. He prays for people in such a case, but cannot single the child out. We can only do what we can. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves. Potentially, any other human being can be our neighbour, that's the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In reality, our love can only stretch as far as the people with whom we come into contact. It can intend to stretch around the globe, but in practice, only as far as we can personally experience. The Church, however, is the link between all who suffer, and it is the Church suffering with those who do suffer that can make the difference. Individual members of the Church "plug themselves" into the Church whenever they attend Mass.

So, in our parish, we can only remember those who are actually connected with the Parish in someway. The power of the laity is that they bring the memory of those who need pray to Mass. All Christians are called to be a blessing to the world, and it is by presenting the needs of those they meet to Almighty God that we make these supplications to God known in the sacrifice of the Mass. We pray for bodily relief from sickness because being ill is horrible, and we bring to God the desire for Him to bring some great good out of their illness. Sometimes that is a full healing, sometimes that is preparation for a happy death. For Christians, a happy death is guaranteed in our Faith in God, even if it is terrible for family and friends.

In remembering the suffering of others, we ourselves become not only more human, but more united as one human in one human being and thus united in God. Pain and suffering are part of the human lot, and we need to tell our priest if there is anyone who is in need of prayer as part of our Christian duty. The priest has a duty to present that prayer at the altar. This is why The List exists. Prayer will achieve something, namely the deepening of the relationship between humanity and God bringing comfort to those who need it and the hope that things will get better, even if the sickness is unto death.

The List may seem useless, but as an expression of the work of the Church, it is invaluable. It should not be used as a substitute for doing all that we can to help those who do suffer!

1 comment:

Fr Tom said...

In our parish, the list includes relatives and friends of the parishioners, and those who have entered the gates of larger life from the community. Often, I will see a name that I don't know, but that name represents someone who is being cared about and prayed for by someone in the parish. I rejoice that they have faith that prayer is a key part of healing. I especially like the fact that when persons on the list recover from their illness, the parishioner who has put them on the list will tell me of their recovery, so we can give thanks to God for healing.