At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I would like to talk about something I have spoken about before. Why do we go to Mass? I write this in the midst of Holy Week. In the events we celebrate this week, we see what the Mass offers us.
For some people, attendance at Mass is an obligation. Actually, for all Catholics it is an obligation.
The obligation is important. God gives the Third Commandment, Keep the Sabbath Holy, because it is good for us. We need to give the day to the Lord. Central to this is going to Mass.
Related to obligation is habit. There are people who go to Mass more out of habit than anything else. It is what they have done for years on Sunday. Unfortunately, for many that habit was broken by the COVID pandemic shutdown. The habit was broken and they have not returned. We pray they come to realize what they are missing.
Others come to Mass looking for something to make them feel good for an hour. Now, Mass can help us feel good for an hour but if that is all the we are looking for, we miss the greatest gift and the depth of what the Mass offers us. Mass should lift us up but not simply for one hour. When we truly open ourselves to the depths of what the Mass offers us, it isn’t about feeling “happy” for an hour. It leads us to a deep abiding joy that permeates our lives throughout the week. This joy, the peace of Christ, helps us to see beyond whatever sufferings we face to know that God is with us, leading us forward through our sufferings.
In the Mass we share God’s Word. Before we get to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we first hear God’s Word from the Bible. Then, the priest or deacon breaks open that Word to help know how God is calling us to be his disciples in the world we live in. (If you are thinking your parish priest/deacon is not a good preacher, pray for them. Ask God to help them preach the message He wants them to hear, not the message you want to hear).
God’s Word leads us to see that life is not all about me. We need to be concerned and do our part to help our sisters and brothers in need. In hearing God’s Word, we can also see how God has been there for his people in the past so that we might know that He continues to be with us today.
The Eucharist we receive is the Body and Blood of Christ. In receiving it, we are strengthened to carry out what God asks of us. We become what we receive.
As we look beyond ourselves, we can realize that going to Mass is not all about me. We go to Mass to give praise and glory to God, knowing He has blessed in the past and will continue to bless us.
At the beginning of this article, I said I am writing this during Holy Week when we celebrate the events that are at the heart of what Mass is about. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is the night when Jesus gave us the Eucharist when He said this is my body, this is my blood. Yet, the Eucharist is even more. On Good Friday, Jesus sacrificed his life on the Cross so that our sins can be forgiven. Yet, this is not a separate event from the Last Supper. When Jesus gave us the Eucharist, He spoke of his body which will be given up for us, his blood which will be poured out for us. Jesus intimately ties the Eucharist to his sacrifice on the Cross. This is the sacrifice of the Eucharist. The Crucifixion is not the end of the story. Jesus is laid in the tomb. On the third day, He is raised in the Resurrection. The Resurrection is intimately tied to the Crucifixion.
We call it the Easter Triduum, three days but one event. Every time we celebrate Mass, we are celebrating what Jesus does for us in the Easter Triduum.
Mass ends with a blessing and a dismissal. In the dismissal we are called to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your lives.” When we walk out the door after Mass, we do not leave our faith at the door. We are called to take what we have celebrated and share it with the world. We glorify the Lord outside Mass by living as He teaches. We glorify the Lord by putting our faith into action. We share our faith with others in the way we live our lives.
If you want to grow in your faith, attend the Easter Triduum liturgies, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Good Friday service, and the Easter Vigil. These services are not obligatory but they are at the heart of what God offers us.