If you’ve watched the show Intervention on A&E or you’ve ever been to the hospital, you know the obvious fact that the job of a doctor, interventionist, or therapist is to first deliver the patient the bad news of their sickness or addiction. The next move is to help them out of the bad news and into the solution. Now, delivering the bad news is difficult, but when given with care, the doctor or interventionist are usually successful in helping the patient to the end result – the cure for their illness. The problem becomes desperate when the patient does not know they are sick or thinks their addiction is actually a good thing. If the addict flaunts their addiction and argues that their addiction is beneficial, the interventionist needs to be more direct in their approach to get the patient to realize their problem. After all, the solution to get help is meaningless unless the patient realizes there is a problem.
I recall seeing this idea played out one day when I was watching the Dr. Phil show. On this show, there was a sort of intervention set up with a woman who suffered from bulimia. The bulimic woman was physically frail. It was clear by her appearance she had a serious problem. The sad part is that she did not think she had a problem. In fact, she began to defend her lifestyle as healthy and comfortable to her. She made this idea up in her head so as to avoid letting go her addiction. As a good interventionist, Dr. Phil saw right through this. His method became more direct to her because he had to snap the woman out of her damaging delusion. He had her stand in front of a mirror and asked her a serious of questions about her lifestyle. She had to answer these questions while looking at herself in the mirror. In order to help this woman, Dr. Phil had to show her how pathetic her lifestyle made her. By exposing her sickness to her, he was simultaneously helping her recover from her addiction to save her life.
Now, we will apply the above scenario with the sickness of the entire human race. If you know the basic understanding of the Christian assessment of the human condition you know that Christianity declares we are all sick. This is what sin is – although most people have become numb or annoyed to the word “sin” so to accommodate, I’ll use the word “sick” instead. What is the great human sickness? It is ourselves. Namely, it is pride - the first of the seven deadly sicknesses (sins). Pride is all geared to the self. The self becomes the center of everything. In pride, all thoughts are geared to “what can I get.” Life revolves around the self. When pride occurs, death of the soul occurs. This idea makes sense on the physical level as we can understand that life does not come internally from the self, but from outside the self. I didn’t create myself. The origin of my life came from outside of me (God – and secondarily through my descendants). So given that physical life comes outside the self, we now see that when all our thoughts are geared solely to the self, death of the soul will soon follow. In other words, what fuels the human soul is giving of the self, not getting for the self. After all, God’s original soul in us is pointing to giving up the self for the good of the other. With pride, this is reversed to getting for the self by using the other.
The opposite of pride is humility. And throughout Jesus' life, he teaches the virtue of humility and the vice of pride. See some of these verses below:
“Who ever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. The Son of man came to serve not to be served.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
“If you exalt yourself you’ll be humbled and if you humble yourself you’ll be exalted” (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11) – see also Mark 10:43, John 3:30, and Matthew 11:29 for other examples.
So, we now see that self-worship is the human sickness we need to expose and get rid of. This means that the greatest addiction in the world is the addiction of our way of thinking. Let’s now demonstrate this in concrete terms. I usually speak in front of both adults and teenagers alike. To show the human problem within, I’ll ask a couple questions. I’ll first ask how many people would like the ability to read other people’s minds? Most hands will go up on being able to read other’s thoughts. Then, I ask how many people would like it if other people could read your mind and really know what you are thinking? Not only can people know what you are thinking but they also know the motivation behind your thoughts. They can know why you are thinking this way. When I present this scenario to the group, it never fails, no one’s hand goes up. Why are people so uncomfortable if others can read their mind and know their deep hidden internal agenda? Because it will expose how bad and self-centered we really are. Bingo – hello human sickness called pride! Most everything with think about stems from the old sickness of human pride – what’s in it for me- I need to look good – what do I get out of this.
Given this, let’s now expose the phrase that not only demonstrates the problem, but also shows how we flaunt our problem. We very much become like the bulimic woman who thinks she doesn’t have a problem. One of the most typical phrases you’ll hear from fallen away non-practicing Catholics is: “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” Most likely, this will be one of the main reasons they no longer go to Mass. How do I know? Because I’ve said the same phrase and I’ve heard it countless times.
Now, there is a major flaw with the statement “I don’t get anything of Mass” that I will expose for the reader. In this rather predictable phrase, we see two words that jump out that should trigger the warning signs of the problem. The two words that display the problem are “I” and “get.” With these two words, the person is merely demonstrating the human sickness of pride we want to avoid. This phrase means that the Mass is geared to simply entertaining me like I’m some sort of child at a party. We use God to entertain us. The words “I” and “get” suggest that the relationship between God and us is all geared to what I get. We are back to the bland self-worship at this stage.
Now, we can see this when we understand the relationship between man and God parallels the relationship between child and parent. After all, God is called Father and family language is all over the entirety of the Bible. Given this fact, we can see we love ourselves more than God. In other words, we love the being that didn’t create us (us) more than the Being that did create us (God). Now, as parents we can understand this because any good parent would say they love their children more than themselves, and they care more about their children more than they care about themselves. However, the child loves themselves more than they love the parents (trust me I have 2 kids I know this). So, the parent goes beyond themselves to love the child, while the child cares less about the parent and instead loves themselves. Well, it’s the same way with God and us – only we are now in the position of the child with God. The child uses the parent to get what they want. Bingo – this is exactly how we as adults act towards God. We use God to get what we want, and this is displayed very clearly in that childlike phrase – “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.”
Imagine a parent throws a great feast for the child. We can use the feast of Thanksgiving as a prime example. The parent brings together the family and wants to have a grand celebration that will unite the family together and bring the child closer to their life source – their family. What kind of reaction would the parent have if the child told the parent, “I don’t get anything out of Thanksgiving.” The parent would naturally sigh and be disappointed that the child doesn’t fully grasp the family banquet and instead views everything only in terms of what he can selfishly “get something out of.” In this situation, the child puts nothing into the relationship with the parent, but instead treats the parent as a means to serve himself. Well, this is the same kind of self-absorbed logic that is on full display with the “I don’t get anything out of Mass” idea. In the Mass, this event is much greater than Thanksgiving. In the Mass, we are receiving God’s sacrifice of Himself in the Eucharist to unite with him, AND in order to heal our sick, prideful souls. So, in the Mass, the God of the universe comes to us in order to heal our souls for eternity, and our rather pathetic response is: “I don’t get anything.” Can this phrase be anymore self-absorbed and ungrateful? Can you imagine what we would think if the child’s response to what they think about the parents with: “I don’t get anything out of them.” Okay, kid – your parents only gave you life and gave up their wants to raise you. It’s the same thing with God, only on a much higher level.
I need to expose this to the person who chants, “I don’t get anything out of the Mass” just like Dr. Phil needed to expose the bulimic woman to the mirror, so she can see how crummy her lifestyle makes her look. So, to see the human sickness, I need to show this person the mirror into their soul. At first, it is going to be an ugly, uncomfortable glimpse because our soul is so messed up. This is the same scenario when Dr. Phil had to show the bulimic women herself in the mirror so she can understand how bad her lifestyle made her look. It deteriorated her body, and this phrase deteriorates our soul. Now, I hope the reader can understand how childish, pathetic and self-absorbed this phrase is, just like Dr. Phil hoped the bulimic woman could see how sad her lifestyle made her be. Welcome to the mirror of your soul. It is ugly and needs help.
“I don’t get anything out of the Mass” statement is nothing more than self-worship. So, given that we know our desires are flawed, why would we dismiss the solution to the problem (the Mass) by our own problem (flawed desires)? When a person complains that the Mass is not entertaining your desires, it is as problematic as an obese person complaining that their personal trainer does not help with their junk food desires.
Forget the fact that Jesus came not to give us what we want, but to give us what we need. As he stated, he came much like a doctor for the sick (see Mark 2:17). Imagine a cancer patient telling his doctor “I don’t get anything out of coming to the hospital.” Now, a good doctor cares less about giving the patient what they want, but rather gives them what they need. And what they need is Jesus quite literally in the Blessed Sacrament – the Eucharist.
By chanting “I don’t get anything out of Mass,” the person is merely demonstrating the human problem and does not at all point to the solution. The problem is self-absorbed human pride, and this self-worship is on full display in the rather sad phrase. This “I don’t get anything out of Mass” slogan is nothing more a re-enactment of the original human problem in the Eden – my way over God’s way – my way reigns supreme. Not only is this phrase demonstrating the human problem, but it is flaunting the human problem like it’s a good thing. When you rejoice at your sickness, you are either not aware of your sickness because you’ve been duped by an outside source, or you are in such a state of denial that you internally rationalize your sickness to convince others that you are not sick. At this point, we are back to the position of the bulimic woman being proud of her lifestyle. Can you imagine an alcoholic being proud of their addiction? Well, we are in the same situation when we recite “I don’t get anything out of Mass.”
If you’ve ever been in a bar, you know the worst person there is the drunk who doesn’t know they are drunk. At least a drunk who knows he is drunk won’t keep talking to everyone like he’s some sort of expert. Plus, he will seek refuge with a glass of water and a drive home to cure him. So, this person will seek an ailment to their problem. The drunk who doesn’t know they are drunk will keep taking down their drinks and talk to everyone like he’s so “brilliant.” Folks, when someone says the “I don’t get anything out of Mass” they are in the same position as the drunk that doesn’t know they are drunk. They continue to take down the human drink of alcohol – pride and don’t seek refuge in the Mass – which would be their glass of water and drive home to bed.
It’s rather sad that this selfish slogan has become so predictable. Today, I at least hope we take a look at the mirror in our soul and realize what that bulimic women realized when she looked in the mirror. That is, our soul is in bad shape and needs desperate help. This “I don’t get anything out of the Mass phrase” is proof of how bad it is. Once we know we are sick, we will begin to experience healing. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “The smartest person in the insane asylum is the person who knows they're insane.”
Going to the Mass is like going to the hospital. It’s not supposed to “feel good” at first, but if you keep going and learn more about the medicine, the procedures, and realize how much the doctors and nurses gave up to serve your sick soul, you’ll fall more in love with it.