Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.As a youngster in the Bronx, I was involved in Sunday services at St. Nicholas of Tolentine as both an alter boy and a soprano in the boys choir. When I wasn’t serving and actually had to “attend” mass, I guess the routines and repetition of the liturgy didn’t mesh well with my childhood sense of what God was all about. In those years, my brothers and I would often go up for communion, and then instead of returning to our seats… we would continue down the aisle right out the door.
Looking back, I think we missed the most important line that the priest would recite every week: Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
Fast forward 30 years. In recent months, I’ve tried to spend more time with God – and will even stop into church to pray during the week. And before I leave, I can hear a voice saying “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord." The very words that I glazed over for so many years are suddenly taking on a new meaning.
GO. Yes, it starts with an action word. Kind of reminds me that when we leave the church, that’s when the work needs to begin. Go. It involves movement. Go. Do something. Go. I’ve got a mission for you.
IN PEACE. Has Jesus given us any greater gift for our time on earth? Sometimes I struggle to explain to others what Christ means to me. But the gift he provides is so simple. Peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” It’s not surprising that I’ve felt Christ’s presence most in my “darkest hours.” Lost my job (peace). Relationship strained (peace). Child sick (peace). Oh, what a gift!
TO LOVE THE LORD. It’s our first mission – and one we should cherish. V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. OK, right now I would need to add "when I remember" to the end of this, but I'm working on it!
TO SERVE THE LORD. Yes it’s more than a feeling (Go!) there’s action required. I know that a lot of times, I sit and wait… asking God to fill in the blanks… how can I serve?... what is my purpose, Oh Lord?... speak to me… answer me… and while I’m sitting there, the world and all of its needs go by. I need to constantly remind myself that when JC came onto the scene, God had big plans for him. But he didn’t wait – the first thing he did was grab a few friends and help individuals in need. Go.
Interestingly, when the Catholic Mass was said in Latin, the final words the priest said were “ite, missa est” – which roughly translates into “you are now dismissed.” And while the English translation used today says a bit more – I used to treat it like “ite, missa est” as in “good, it’s over… I’m done with church for another week.”
But I think we can all agree that it’s really just the beginning. Go. I have a mission for you this week. Go.