Saint Teresa, overwhelmed with God’s goodness, asked the Lord “How can I thank you?” The Lord replied to her “Attend one Mass.” Saint John Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy. All the good works in the world placed next to one Holy Mass are as a grain of sand beside a mountain.” Let’s look at the Mass and appreciate its power: in unity, forgiveness, scripture, sacrifice and the Eucharist.
Unity. “You cannot pray at home as at church…exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls.” (Catholic Catechism, 2179). When we join our voices in hymns and responses, we are united as the body of Christ. “We, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). This body of Christ includes angels and saints as well. “In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God.” (Catholic Catechism, 335). During Mass, try to picture the church filled with angels, Saints and departed loved ones; all surrounding the altar in worship. Would there be nothing more powerful on earth that? This why it is so important to disregard one's ability to sing and join in the opening song. It is then that we begin to unite as one in prayer.
Forgiveness. Pope Francis said the Penitential Rite is very important to the Mass. We should truly examine our conscience as we confess out loud “to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have greatly sinned.” We should repent of sins and seek intercession when we pray “I ask the Blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me.” The priest then prays and grants absolution from Venial sins, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life”. The Mass is not a substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but is a reconciliation of grace so we can receive Jesus in Holy Communion. There is still the matter of Penance; but the Mass has the power to renew our standing with God every time we participate.
Scripture. One Mass has more Scripture than any other form of worship. In addition to the Liturgy of the Word, the Mass itself is Scriptural. There are over 125 references to the Bible at one Mass. Scripture is quoted over 10 times in the Penitential Act, 20 times at the priest’s preparation at the Altar and 30 times in the Eucharistic Prayer. Even our responses are Scriptural. “The Lord be with you” (Exodus 10:10). “And with your spirit” (2 Timothy 4:22). It is unfortunate that some Catholics leave the Church because they "were not fed." The Mass is a banquet of Scripture.
Our Sacrifice. The Mass is the sacrifice by which the Church not only remembers Jesus Christ, but brings His saving Death and Resurrection into the present. We become a part of it. Jesus is present and does again what He did at the Last Supper. We are there at the Last Supper,. And Jesus speaks to each of us, saying "take this and eat of it, for this is my body". The priest presides, but the sacrifice is from everyone at Mass. The priest prays “that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable”. We respond “May the Lord accept the sacrifice”, because the sacrifice is ours too. The gifts are taken to the Altar by one family, but the gifts are presented by one family for the gifts that will become the ultimate sacrifice are from all of us.
The Eucharist. “In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood." (St. Francis of Assisi). “The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life.” (Catholic Catechism, 1324). The Host is Jesus. We hold Jesus in our hands. We take Jesus into our body and life. When we go home, we go home with Jesus in us. After we receive Jesus, it is good to return to the pew, kneel and meditate on the magesty and power of what was just received. Think about the power to transform, if we let Him.
Conclusion. Mass should begin the moment we enter the church. We should immediately begin to pray and prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. We should run through a quick Examination of Conscience to prepare for the Penitential Rite. Our hearts should be prepared for the Word of God. There should be nothing inside or outside of Mass at that point distracting us from Our Lord. The Mass should not end until we are outside the church, back into the sinful world. We should not be in hurry to rejoin the cares of the world. We let the priest leave before us to show reverence and respect for him who is “in persona Christi”. It is at that point when we can begin to understand the Mass.
Then, we “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” (Mark 16:15).
“Thanks be to God!!” (2 Cor. 9:15).
For additional meditation:
- How does the Mass become more special when I quietly meditate on Jesus before the opening hymn? What can I gain spiritually?
- How is the opening hymn similar to a stadium full of fans cheering on their team? How can I show more unity?
- In what ways is the Penitential Rite similar to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How is it different?
- What can I do in preparation to hear the readings, get something out of the readings and respond properly? Do I remember the readings once I get home?
- What is my approach to receiving Jesus in the Eucharist? Would it be different if I saw Him physically, in person, at the altar?
- If Jesus was physically celebrating the Mass, instead of a priest “in persona Christi”, how would I feel leaving the building before Him?
- Is leaving Mass early to get back to my worldly life putting idols before God?
- How could my life be greatly transformed with more emphasis on the Mass in my life?