Did you ever notice that there's no closing prayer at Mass? There's a prayer after Communion, then a blessing and then just a simple dismissal. But listen to that prayer after Communion! It's impressive how the prayers relate what we are doing in the liturgy with the Second Coming, the “ultimate gathering of the assembly on the eighth day” for worship. Being sent out on the first day of the week, we are expected to return on the eighth day, bringing just a bit more of the world back with us to God.
The wonderful thing is that we are not sent out on mission until we have been strengthened by the Eucharist, until our communion with the Lord has been strengthened, so that it will be Jesus living in us, drawing people to himself. If we are living stones, we must be built into the living temple of the body of Christ; otherwise, we may as well be in a rock pile.
"The Son is convinced that, even without being visible, he can go on working and place a part of his work in the hands of believers without thereby jeopardizing it" (Von Speyr, Ephesians, page 167). "Christ has no body now but yours" and that body must be built up continuously; this is what the Lord has entrusted to us: his Eucharistic body in the Mass, and his Body the Church, through mission.
And in case we've been letting all that slip past us at the time of the blessing, Pope Benedict gave us some new words for the dismissal. These are the newest part of the Roman Missal, coming as a fruit of the Synod on the Eucharist.
We began the Mass with the Sign of the Cross, which we get right from the Gospel, Matthew 28, the “Great Commission.” We end the Mass with a dismissal that takes its inspiration from that same passage: Go and make disciples of all nations. Here are the several options for the dismissal (in bold), along with my reflections on them.
“Go forth, the Mass is ended.” Go forth! Saying simply "go" seems to put the empahsis on the place we are leaving, and on the act of departing. But when we hear "go forth," we are being told much more than "you can leave now": we are being thrust out of those doors with a sense of direction and a job to do. It's the opposite of “closure”!
“Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” But isn't that imposing our belief system on others? Shouldn't we mind our own business, or wait for people to seek us out with their explicitly religious questions?
Remember the Gospel parable of the treasure buried in a field? The person who made the discovery covered it up again, and then Jesus says, "out of joy," went and sold everything to buy the field. When we announce the Gospel, we are not inviting people to misery, but to joy. Pope Benedict wrote “Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others” (Sac. Car. 84). Do we believe this?
“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”: the mission of the church cannot be limited to the strictly spiritual plane (what would that mean for us who are embodied spirits?); the mission of the church has to relate to the mundane. Where? In real life, with the individual gifts and vocation that are ours: if teaching, by teaching, if exhorting, by encouraging; if in works of charity, through works of charity; as St. Paul said. This is where our lay ministry really begins, consecrating the world of family life, of work, of community. Cardinal : "It seems obvious in our time that the world stands in desperate need of being transformed by the message of the gospel." “Transubstantiating” society. That's why the Church insists that priests not go into public office; that would be taking over the specifically lay role.
“Go in peace.” Where are we going? Ultimately, not out of the doors back into what we consider real life; we are going out to meet the Lord, who is coming. We said it in the Holy holy holy: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. " That's in the present tense! The Lord is coming like the bridegroom in the parable: "The bridegroom is here; go out to meet him" not as bridesmaids, but as the bride: what a difference!
We go in peace, and we fully expect that, within eight days, we will meet the Lord again—either in his definitive coming or when we return, to assemble as the Church, on Sunday.