Last July I explained why the Mass prayer “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church” brings me so much comfort and reassurance. In this issue, I want to talk more about the rite in which this prayer appears, the rite of peace:
Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to your Apostles:
Peace I leave you, my peace I give you,
look not on our sins,
but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity
in accordance with your will.
The priest prays the rite of peace after the assembly prays the Our Father, which sums up the faith and hope of the Christian community exactly as Jesus intended. The Our Father is a prayer of reconciliation, praise, and petition. The rite of peace seems at first glance to also be a prayer of petition, but it’s not. The Our Father has been prayed, and our reconciliation has been established. In celebration of this great gift of reconciliation already received, the priest prays, “Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church.”
This simple prayer has the power to remind us of the awesome gift of God’s grace we celebrate in the Eucharist. It reminds us of what has been accomplished for us by Jesus’ sacrifice. It also reminds us of the reconciliation that now exists between each of us and our heavenly Father, reconciliation that has already been accomplished for us by Jesus’ death. Reconciliation isn’t something we hope for; it’s something we celebrate as a gift of God.
People with scrupulosity should reflect often on the reconciliation God has given us. We’ve already been reconciled, just as we’ve already been loved and have already been forgiven.
This reconciliation isn’t yet celebrated in the fullness of the promise of our salvation, because the human-community journey hasn’t been completed. But that doesn’t diminish the gift of reconciling grace we’ve already received.
It would be a positive and very helpful spiritual discipline for people with scrupulosity to repeat this prayer often, either verbatim or personalized: “Look not on my sins, either real or imagined, but rather on my faith, as weak and as fragile as it may be.” This spiritual discipline can help us focus on what is important to remember and celebrate.
Most of us needn’t be reminded of our sinfulness, of how we fall short, of how we don’t measure up to our expectations. Remembering that we’re loved and forgiven exactly as we are—not as we one day hope to be—is a step forward in a maturing faith life. Yes, there is sin. We don’t deny that. But there is also grace, and grace abounds because of our heavenly Father’s love.
The passage that follows “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church” is also helpful in daily reflection: “and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.” When we emphasize what we’ve already received from the Lord as grace—instead of obsessing on what we perceive to be lacking—we promote a more focused experience of the peace God promised us.
I’m more anxious when I imagine what might be, good or bad, than when I reflect on what has already occurred. Peace and hope seem more possible when I reflect on what God has already done for me instead of worrying about people, experiences, and circumstances over which I have no real control.
You’ve no doubt heard that you can look at a glass as being half full or half empty. That’s true, but your attitude doesn’t affect the amount of content that’s actually in the glass.
And so it is with the abundance of God’s grace. The reality of God’s grace and blessing isn’t affected by our individual perspective. Despite what we see and feel, God continues to bless us and mold us daily into his people and into his kingdom. —by Fr. Thomas M. Santa, CSsR
Excerpt from the English translation of The General Instruction of the Roman Missal from The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.