So very often I hear it said today, “I don’t get anything out of Mass”. “Father’s homilies are boring”. Sometimes I even hear it said, “Father’s homilies are too long”. This second and third statement may well be true, but the first certainly is not and it brings me great pain whenever I hear it.
Why do we come to Mass? Do we come for ourselves or do we come for the Lord? King David today says that we come to the Mass to:
…bless the LORD at all times;To say, “I get nothing out of Mass”, shows a self-centeredness and a deep lack of understanding of the Mass. We do not come for ourselves; rather, we come to praise, worship, thank and adore the Living God who fills us with all good things. We should come, as Saint Paul says, “singing and playing to the Lord in [our] hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:1-20). When to the Mass properly prepared and disposed God continues his work for us and leads us closer to salvation if we open our hearts to him.
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD…
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name…
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy (Psalm 34:2-4, 6).
In this is shown to us the goodness and generosity of the Lord. We come to worship him and he in turn feeds us with the Body and Blood of his Son and pours out his Holy Spirit into our hearts. When we come to praise and adore the Blessed Trinity, we are drawn into the very life of the Trinity; we are drawn into the love that is God.
To say, “I don’t get anything out of the Mass” is really to say, “I am not really here. I am sitting here, yes, but I am not allowing the Lord to speak within the depths of my heart.” It is to say, “I will not listen to the voice of the Lord; I will not recognize his Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar.” Saint Paul warns us today, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Those who are wise come to the Mass receptive to the voice of the Lord.
Says Jesus today, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (John 6:57). Jesus calls each of us to himself; he calls us to become one with him and a part of his Mystical Body. Indeed, he calls out to us:
Let whomever is simple turn in here … Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed (Proverbs 9:4-5). Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:54-56).When we eat his body and drink his blood we become one with him and he gives us a share in his eternal life and glory. How can one say, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” He teaches us throughout the Liturgy of the Word and he feeds us with his very own Body and Blood in the Liturgy of the Eucharist; he unites us to himself. For what more could we possibly ask?
It is because of the immensity of this great gift – the gift of God himself – that Saint Paul warns us in another place:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (I Corinthians 11:27-29).This is why the Church still insists that all mortal sins must be confessed before one receives Holy Communion. This is why we must prepare ourselves spiritually and physically to receive Holy Communion. We must open our hearts to receive this great gift of love and we must fast for one hour before receiving the Eucharist as a sign of our devotion.
In addition to this, we ought to pay attention to the way that we are dressed when we come to the Mass, when we come into the presence of the great King of heaven and earth. More often than not, a failure to dress more appropriately for the Lord comes from a certain laziness, and laziness always demonstrates a lack of love. We need not dressed in tuxedos or formal gowns – although there is nothing wrong with this – but we also should not come in clothes that we might also wear to bed. To dress in one’s “Sunday best” is a fitting and proper way to show our respect for and love of the Lord Jesus Christ who gives himself totally to us.
It is not enough to say, “I came to Mass. That is all the Lord wants. It is enough that I came.” The Lord desires more than our mere presence; he wants our heart, he desires the totality of who we are. This is why he suffered, died and rose again. Let us make “the most of the opportunity” not tomorrow but today as he comes to us in the Holy Eucharist. Bow down before the Lord your God. Lift up your eyes to him and look into his face. See his eyes already looking down upon you in love, even before you lift your head. Lift up your heart to the Lord. Before the Blessed Eucharist,
Let the whole of mankind tremble
the whole world shake
and the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is [present] on the altar
in the hands of a priest.
O admirable heights and sublime lowliness!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
That the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself under the little form of bread!
Look, brothers, at the humility of God
and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves, as well,
that you may be exalted by Him.
Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that
He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally (Saint Francis of Assisi, Letter to the Entire Order 26-29).