You can now all relax! I have my very own copy of the NEW SUNDAY MISSAL(a generous and thoughtful gift). Therefore, I have in front of me the translation you will actually hear at Sunday Mass, even if you still do not have it in your hands. Of course I shall continue to ‘consult’ other versions – and in this way try to capture, for our mutual benefit, the more powerful thrust of the Sunday Liturgy. {You may wish to know that the Scriptures are taken from the NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION which, on the whole, is excellent.}

It is noticed that the Opening Prayer of the Mass has reverted to being named THE COLLECT. Before referring to this week’s scriptures it may be helpful if we digress a little, and understand something about the three ‘official prayers’ said by the Celebrant. These are commonly referred to as THE THREE GREAT PRAYERS.

The word collect is, of course, a literal translation from the Latin original. We need to understand the reason behind this so called collect. There is supposed to be a time of silence after the words Let us pray. This allows the community, each one individually, to offer their own prayers. Then, after the silent period (too often rushed by the Celebrant!), the individual prayers are collected together and offered in the words of the FIRST GREAT PRAYER.

The SECOND, is the prayer over the gifts (offerings) which was once called THE SECRET(because, strangelyenough, it was at one time said quietly). This prayer is also preceded by an invitation to the Congregation (“Pray, brothers and sisters ….” – so there is another collection). Finally there is the PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION(a period of silence preceding, and so a third collection!). These three prayers nearly always provide us with a key which holds the main thrust of the Sunday’s scriptures together.

This Sunday let us focus attention on the OPENING PRAYER. There we read:

” ….. grant your people to love what you command and desire what you promise, that amid the uncertainties of our world … our hearts may be fixed …”

Now, if we do not have some sort of real feeling for the commands of the Lord (and the call of the Gospel) it becomes almost impossible to truly desire or understand God’s promises. Each one of us is, if we are honest, faced with uncertainties introduced into our lives by the world around us. Therefore our hearts need to BE FIXED (not repaired, but firmly focussed).

So, we can begin to understand OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING [JOSHUA 24: 1 – 2a. 15 – 17. 18b]. The people “presented themselves before God.” Each and every Sunday we, too, present ourselves before the Lord. This presentation of ourselves should become a major decision as we prepare for Eucharist. Then, thisSunday, we are able to hear for ourselves the challenge presented by Joshua: “… choose this day whom you will serve.” If our choice is “we will also serve the Lord, for he is our God,” then our hearts will be fixed amid the uncertainties of our world.

Perhaps the closing words of THE NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [EPHESIANS 5: 21 – 32] are all too often ignored while wives squirm, and husbands gloat and flex their muscles?! However, hear “this is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.” The Lord Christ strives, through us, to present the Church “without spot or wrinkle”(he depends on us to keep our hearts fixed amid the uncertainties), and (as the PRAYER OVER THE GIFTS seeks) working for “the gifts of unity and peace in your Church.”

Against the uncertainties, the question posed by Jesus in THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 6: 60 – 69] must present us with a real challenge (much the same as the challenge presented by Joshua:) “will you also go away?” Do not fear … it is a question I have asked myself many times (and answered!).

This, for me, is why TODAY’S PSALM [34 or 35] is so important. “I will bless the Lord at all times …from many trials (the Lord) rescues … keeps guard at all times”even amid the uncertainties.