This is the more literal translation of Latin “Ite, missa est” – the final words of mass. It is more urgent than the current dismissal “Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord” Were we to sense the urgency we might ask:
Q. “Sent forth to do what?”
A. “To build the kingdom of God.”
Q. “How should I do that? What if I fail? I’m not strong enough.”
A. “To learn that, read Gregory Pierce’s The Mass is Never Ended: Rediscovering Our Mission to Transform the World. In only 120 pages, we can see how the Mass should help us in building the kingdom both at home and at work. (The word “Mass” is, after all , derived from the “missa est”.)
Pierce writes first about our mission – what it is that we are “sent forth” to accomplish. It is not enough to say that we are “sent forth” to build the kingdom. Nor should we abandon the idea of having a vocation to those who are specifically in the religious life. Every one of us has a vocation – a specific calling to be of some kind of service to others. We should be able to see this as part of our own daily work. As one example: accountants make it possible for bills to be paid, funds collected and paychecks written. Without them it would be hard for me to care for my family – a responsibility deriving from my sacramental promise. The work of accountants, banks clerks and computer systems all help me in my vocation.
Next, Pierce reflects on the structure of the Mass and how it relates to the concerns we bring with us. Having been sent forth the previous Sunday, we come back to celebrate successes; ask God’s mercy for shortcomings and failures; experience God’s presence and instruction in the words of scripture; receive nourishment and strength for the journey in the Bread and Wine; and to be sent forth back into our world of work.
Lastly, we need to fashion a broader and deeper idea of spirituality as it relates to the working world. Pierce finds a perspective in Chevy Chase’s comedic signature line on Saturday Night Live – “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” Too many of us (the laity) tend to hear the dismissal is a similar sense: “Go in peace out into the world while I remain in the spiritual realm and you don’t.” If we allow ourselves to imagine that we can be spiritual only when we are in a monastery, on a mountaintop or on retreat we will miss out on our own unique mission in the world. Scriptural writings, papal documents, the examples of saints, and current literature all point towards a spirituality of work. It is, he contends and I agree, vastly underemphasized in today’s church.
If you are looking for some more specific spiritual disciplines of spirituality in the workplace, please read Pierce’s Spirituality at Work: 10 Ways to Balance Your Life on the Job. (Go here for my review.)If you are not looking to the liturgy – and maybe this book or this blog – are you hearing the dismissal or just glad to leave Mass?