My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Before we go any further let’s do a bit of grammar. In the greeting “The Lord be with you”, is you singular or plural? Those who still remember Latin Masses should be able to recall the recurring words “Dominus vobiscum” which doesn’t leave any doubt that you is plural. Why does it need to be plural? Answer this question: How can people come to know that Jesus Christ is the One sent by God the Father? In the Gospel of John we read what Jesus said at the Last Supper: “Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.” The convincing sign on earth that Jesus comes from God is the unity of his disciples, our unity. We can see how our societies are divided, how much they have been fragmented. In those fragmented societies the community of believers, the Church, is to be the sign of Jesus Christ who comes from the Father. That’s why Christianity is not for lonely rangers. On the contrary if one separates his or her faith in Jesus from the community of disciples, from the Church, it is like playing soccer of footy on his or her own. It doesn’t make much sense, does it? This message inspired the builders of our ancient cathedrals too. Many bricks and stones, symbolising many members of the Church, put together created those architecture marvels raising minds and hearts to heaven. However those marvels were to draw us, Jesus’ followers, to build communities of people united around Jesus.
“The Lord be with you” we hear at the beginning of the Mass, as no single person here present, doesn’t matter how holy and perfect she or he could be, can substitute for the community of believers, to be a convincing sign of who Jesus is, the Only Son of God who came here to give people eternal life.
However every greeting needs a response, so what is the response to “The Lord be with you”? “And with your Spirit.” Someone asked whether it should be “And with your soul Father” which makes a sense as each one of us, including the priest, has got a soul. But let me read a few sentences from the Pontifical which is the liturgical book used by our bishops when they perform services reserved only to them, such as ordination of deacons, priests and bishops. When the bishop ordains a deacon he asks God: “Lord, send forth upon him the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace to carry out faithfully the work of the ministry.” For a new priest the bishop prays: “Renew within him the Spirit of holiness.” When a new bishop is being ordained he hears this sprayer: “So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy apostles.” So when the congregation says: “And with your Spirit” it acknowledges that unique moment of ordination which uniquely configured the priest to Jesus Christ. The priest acts in the Person of Christ, and certainly not by his own resources.
My Dear Fellow Believers! This greeting put all of us in the right place at Mass, like we could hear in the Gospel. It reminds us that we must be a united community in order to show Jesus Christ to the world. The greeting also reminds the priest that Mass is not his own show but rather it is the time of grace when the Blessed Lord speaks to his followers and forms them according to his Heart.