Just think about that statement for a minute. Better still, ponder this question: when have you experienced God’s desire for you? We talk a lot about God’s love but seldom about God’s desire for us and for a world remade in love.

The God who desires you is the God who has created you and me in the Divine image, who breathed into us the breath of Divine life. The God who says to you and me and every person,

Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
Or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Even if these forget, I will never forget you.
See I have branded you on the palms of my hand. (Is 49: 15-16)

This is the God about whom the psalmist says,

God, you examine me and know me …
You read my thoughts from afar …
It is you who created my inmost self …
You know me through and through … Ps 139

I am focused on God’s desire for you and me because I have been reflecting on Pope Francis’ 2022 Apostolic Letter on the Liturgical Formation of the People of God. The letter is addressed to all of us, not just bishops. And lest you thought the notion of liturgical formation was pragmatic, think again. The letter’s starting place and, dare I say, theme is desire: God’s desire for us; our desire for God; Pope Francis’ desire for the Church, its liturgy and the world! The Latin title Desiderio Desideravi (DD) translates the words of Jesus to his disciples immediately before the Last Supper. I earnestly desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Lk 22:15)

The letter is a great reminder that God’s desire is the fundamental starting place for all things ‘faith’ and therefore all things ‘Church’. To focus on God’s desire is to orientate ourselves in accord with God’s thoughts and ways which are so far beyond our own.    (Is 55:8 -9)

The bottom-line insight which Pope Francis notes in regard to the liturgy in DD n 6.

Before our response to his invitation — well before! — there is his desire for us.
We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first
reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us. For our part,
the possible response — which is also the most demanding asceticism — is, as
always, that surrender to this love, that letting ourselves be drawn by him.

If I am in touch with God’s earnest desire calling me to Mass, it is always going to lead me to a more authentic and challenging ‘full, conscious and active participation’ in the liturgy and therefore a deeper encounter with God.

God’s desire for us and for our presence at the celebration of eucharist is an extraordinary and gracious gift freely given in love. And like all gifts, it needs to be received. The reception of the gift is what we call faith. All aspects of faith exist as a response to God’s earnest desire. As people of faith and 21st century disciples we are always living in response to God’s earnest and loving desire for us to share in the divine life. Our choices, our actions, our missionary endeavours, the ministry of Christian initiation, our celebration of the liturgy are always and everywhere in response to God’s initiative. It is God’s work not ours.

And herein lies what Pope Francis calls ‘the powerful beauty of the liturgy’. It is the place of encounter with Christ alive, for ‘Christian faith is either an encounter with Him alive, or it does not exist.’ (DD n. 10). There’s a lot to think about there.

Faith must then be nurtured at the table of word and sacrament where we encounter the earnest and burning desire of God for us. This is where we are made one with Christ. This is the encounter that sends us out, impelled by the knowledge that not everyone knows of God’s desire for them. This is the missionary option we constantly hear Pope Francis speak of. When framed by desire it seems impossible to refer to mission as an option. It is more truly a desire-driven imperative as we become agents of God’s desire in our world.

We must not allow ourselves even a moment of rest, knowing that still not
everyone has received an invitation to this Supper or knowing that others
have forgotten it or have got lost along the way in the twists and turns of
human living. This is what I spoke of when I said, “I dream of a ‘missionary
option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything,
so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules,
language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization
of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (Evangelii gaudium,
n. 27). I want this so that all can be seated at the Supper of the sacrifice of
the Lamb and live from Him. (DD n. 5]

And there we have it. The Church’s liturgy and our celebration of it in parishes and schools and in all the places we gather is about God’s desire for us and its power to transform us to become agents of God’s desire in the world.

From the very beginning the Church had grasped, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, that that which was visible in Jesus, that which could be seen with the eyes and touched with the hands, his words and his gestures, the concreteness of the incarnate Word — everything of Him had passed into the celebration of the sacraments. (DD n. 9)

It is not too far a stretch to say that the life of the world is dependent on our experience of God’s desire for us and our response in faith. The liturgy of the Church is grounded in desire. What then are the imperatives for liturgical formation? It’s certainly about more than rubrics and laws, though understanding them is important. It’s certainly about more than what I already know and understand, because at the heart of the liturgy is the paschal mystery and in the presence of such a mystery we are always going to discover something new.[i] According to Pope Francis it is about the need to recover our capacity for authentic liturgy which includes both authentic celebration and authentic liturgical living.

God desires you! We need to start there to enliven our liturgical life.

On Friday 12 July, the Diocesan Liturgy Council is spending a retreat day exploring the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, Desideria Desideravi. We would be happy to facilitate a similar formation time for any interested parish within this diocese. To contact us email:  

Diocesan Liturgy Council Update

To keep abreast of the work of the Diocesan Liturgy Council click on the link and then the ‘Council News’ drop down menu where you will find the latest meeting Report.


Image: © Radiant Light. Elizabeth Wang ‘The soul is like a cavern which Christ purifies and enlarges as He pours his light within it in prayer’ T-00350-OL. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

[i] Ferrone, Rita Pastoral Guide to people Francis’ Desiderio Desideravi. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2023 p. 44.

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Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.