If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy–St. John Vianney
Last week, Fr. Chris Alar of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception gave the homilies for a couple of televised Masses on EWTN. One of them was on keeping the Sabbath day holy and why going to Mass should be a top priority for us, at the very least on Sunday but ideally as often as we can.
Fr. Chris says that in fact, the biggest reason that most Catholics don’t attend Mass is fear, not the scandals going on or any other reason that you might think of. Sure, there are others, but the primary reason is fear. What they don’t realize is that at Mass, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us through the sacrifice, as Fr. Chris says. During every Mass, we are AT THE FOOT OF CALVARY. The reason that it is referred to as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is because Jesus is offering Himself to us at the altar just as He did on Calvary on Good Friday. Not only that, but He is offering us back to God as well. There is no reason for fear because we are being sanctified as an offering to God in the sacrifice. Yes, we are unworthy (who isn’t?) but that shouldn’t keep us from something that is for our own good and sanctification.
Plus, the Mass is not a sacrifice and an offering that only the Holy Spirit can offer. We are called to be active participants in the Sacrifice of the Mass. This is called “assisting” at the Mass. Our prayers, sufferings, and intentions are united with those of the priests’ as we pray for our sanctification and the sanctification of all present. This is made evident by what the priest says, particularly in the Orate Fratres (“Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice AND YOURS may be made acceptable to God the almighty Father”). Yes, we can pray at home, as Fr. Chris points out, but our prayer is made all the more perfect and meaningful at the Mass because it is united with the prayers of all present, including the priest and all the choirs of angels in Heaven.
Not only is the Mass a sacrifice, it is also a wedding. Our wedding. Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride. And we are the Church. Fr. Chris described our walk up the aisle to receive Christ in Holy Communion as analogous to the bride’s walk up the aisle to meet the groom. And when we receive Christ, He enters into us and consummates the union, just as the bride and groom consummate their union after the wedding. And as part of any wedding and marriage, the bride and groom give of themselves to each other and die to themselves in order to serve the other. In the Mass, Christ gives us Himself, His own Flesh and Blood, for our benefit. In order for the wedding to be complete, we must return the favor and give ourselves to Him. And that requires dying to ourselves. So yeah, maybe you don’t feel like going to Mass or there’s something else you’d rather be doing. But Jesus thought you were important enough to die for and He longs to be united with you. The most perfect way to achieve this on earth is at Mass, where you are in the physical presence of the Bridegroom. Christ is calling you to this wedding. Will you accept, or will you be like the wedding guests in Matthew 22:3, who refuse because of things that they deem to be more important?
Yes, God is everywhere. But He’s PHYSICALLY present at every Mass and so other types of prayer cannot compare. You’re not getting anything out of it? Well, what are you putting into it? And have you really thought about what goes on at every Mass? Christ wasn’t too busy or disinterested to die in order to obtain the rewards of eternal life for you. Don’t miss the opportunity to receive the graces and blessings that every single Mass offers you, the greatest being that of being able to unite yourself with Him in Holy Communion.
To view the entire homily by Fr. Chris Alar, M.I.C., which I highly recommend, click here. The homily begins around the 6:16 mark.
*Today is the feast of St. James, apostle and martyr. He was the first apostle to die for the Faith and was the brother of St. John. He is the patron saint of Spain and many pilgrims travel to Santiago de Compostela to venerate his body. St. James, pray for us!