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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon) (13)
“To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs…”
Just as everyone does during the Penitential Act, the bishop or priest celebrating Mass at this moment strikes his breast in an act of penance as we all implore God’s mercy in admitting us to communion with the saints, not just in the future, but right now. Communion with the saints and with God is holiness, and that is not just something at the end of life. It starts with our Baptism and continues into eternity if we strive to make it grow in our lives.
The names listed here are believers who gave witness to the point of laying down their life for Christ; every name here is the name of a martyr, even John the Baptist, who died after paving the way for Christ, a mission he received from the womb only a few months before Our Lord’s Incarnation. Our call to holiness doesn’t begin at conception; from eternity the Heavenly Father wanted us to, one day, be happy and holy, united with his Son and with all the others who believe in him. Our call to holiness start in eternity and wants to lead us there.
“… and all your Saints; admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.”
We pray not only to have communion with them now, but to one day join them in eternity. When we come before the Judge on the day of our death, our accomplishments alone are not going to get us a favorable judgment. We have to form the habit of throwing ourselves on the mercy of the court, not trying to impress the Judge with what we’ve done. He’s going to tell us a lot of things we didn’t do as well.
Saint John the Baptist sent his disciples to Christ to ask if he really was the Messiah: imprisoned and facing death, his faith was shaken (see Luke 7:20, for example). Saint Barnabas had a heated argument with Saint Paul and stopped going on missionary work with him (see Acts 15:39). Saint Matthias was chosen to become one of the Twelve because Judas had betrayed Jesus (see Acts 1:26).We have an ideal for holiness that we keep before our eyes, but also an awareness of the times when we’ve fallen short. To get to Heaven we need three, indispensable things:
We need God’s mercy. The Catechism teaches us that the grace of our justification (our initial forgiveness) is completely gratuitous and unmerited: “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life” (CCC 2010). Adam and Eve blew it, and we all suffer the consequences of that Original Sin. God in his mercy gave us Baptism, not out of any duty or obligation. He also gave us the sacrament of Reconciliation, so we know we have to constantly receive his mercy. At the moment of Judgment we throw ourselves on the mercy of the court just as we do every time we go to Confession. Don’t wait.
We need Christ. Even though we can’t merit the initial grace, someone had to, and that someone is Christ. Our justification was merited by the Passion of Christ (cf. CCC 2010). Without Christ no one would be admitted into the fellowship the Apostles, Martyrs, and Saints. There’d be no fellowship: “God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:3–6).
We need to make an effort. For most of us our parents may have taken us to the baptismal fount and done their Christian duty, but that doesn’t translate into us becoming spiritual couch potatoes. We’re praying to be admitted to the communion of saints for a reason: it’s not easy, and there’ll be setbacks. We need to work with the grace we’ve received in order to succeed, and with mercy, Christ, and our effort, we’re sure to succeed.