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An essential bond

Liturgy and mission, religious rituals and life are held together by an inseparable bond. To break it would render our rituals thoroughly lifeless and our mission, an impossible task.

Rituals are a great part of our daily lives, from rising to sleeping. What we do and the way we do them follow a pattern assimilated through time that tends to be repeated almost unconsciously. In a way, they become the means by which we live and express ourselves. Ritual and life are, indeed, inseparable. The danger, however, is that, when rituals become mechanical, they no longer become life-giving and, when they fail to give us the opportunity to express ourselves, they become irrelevant and lifeless. This common experience in the ordinary routine of our lives can help us understand the essential bond between liturgy and life and vice-versa in our faith journeys.

For us, believers, liturgical form, along with a genuine sense of identity and mission, is probably, the main challenge facing the Church today. It saddens me to see that, for many churchgoers, worship has become an empty ritual, completely disincarnated from their lives. It is no longer a celebration of life – our dreams, hopes, frustrations and failures – in hearts that believe and feel the continuous presence of God. Rather, it has become a traditional ritual, our Sunday “obligation,” as many still call it. Failing to see our liturgies as celebrations of life, in communion with the “Giver of Life,” is to miss that essential bond of love which enlivens any liturgical ritual.

Only with a proper understanding and celebration of liturgical rituals can we break from a seemingly routinary way of life. We need to transform our liturgical gatherings into inwardly-renewing experiences, enlivening our faith and fostering our sense of identity and mission. An authentic liturgical life will always seek harmony between what is celebrated in ritual and what is lived in our daily life as our mission. The God we celebrate in liturgy is the same God we serve in and with our lives. Our mission always begins with the renewal of the Christian community in worship, enabling it to go forth and live fruitful lives so that it may return to worship with grateful hearts. In this way, our liturgical celebrations become the “most effective missionary act,” as St. John Paul II invoked.

More recently, Pope Francis insisted on this same line by reminding us that “the church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization, and the source of her renewed self-giving.” In this sense, we can truly say that the liturgy is at the center of the life of the Church – as the catalyzing force that draws us together to a worshipful encounter of genuine love for God and for one another. It is also the empowerment that impels us to embrace the logic of gratuitous love as we go forth to bear good and abundant fruits as disciples who find joy in imitating the Master.

Liturgy and mission, religious rituals and life are held together by an inseparable bond. To break it would render our rituals thoroughly lifeless and our mission, an impossible task. It is, therefore, urgent to rediscover and render effective this life-giving bond by turning our liturgies into life-filled celebrations which, in turn, equip us to be effective missionaries at the service of the Kingdom. Here, those called to be shepherds have a tremendous responsibility but so, too, the entire community. Probably, that is why we gather as a family of faith.

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