Over the next few weeks,
Father Ang, Father Tom and I, in our homilies,
are going to focus on the Mass itself.
What we do is so familiar,
and yet we might ask:
“Why do we do that?
So, let’s start with a basic question—
why are we here?
What is the Mass all about?
The short answer is:
the Mass is about a miracle.
Now, you might think
I’m talking about the Eucharist, and I am;
but there is a more fundamental miracle,
that we might miss.
It’s not the Scriptures, not the homily,
not the miracle in ourselves, being his People;
not the priest,
being a living icon of Jesus Christ.
Even transubstantiation—that big word means
a total change in fundamental reality,
or substance, while the outward appearance
stays the same.
That’s what happens with the bread and wine.
It keeps the same outward appearances,
but the fundamental reality is totally changed:
truly Jesus, God and man,
body and soul, flesh and blood.
Yes, even transubstantiation
of bread and wine into Christ himself
is not the primary miracle of the Mass—
although we’re very close!
The primary miracle of the Mass
is the Sacrifice!
When the priest steps to the altar,
and there, Jesus Christ himself
makes real for us the very same sacrifice
he offered on the Cross…
That sacrifice is the primary miracle,
everything else flows from it.
So, while we try to be properly disposed
to receive communion, perhaps we aren’t:
maybe we need to go to confession;
sometimes there’s a marriage issue;
not everyone is Catholic;
maybe we neglected the hour of fasting
Be that as it may, we are still part
of an awesome, world-changing event!
(By the way: the obligation of every Sunday
isn’t to receive communion, but to be at Mass—
to be present for the Sacrifice.)
In the Gospel, they were so impressed
with healings and with a big meal,
that they said, “Be our king!”
But “the kingdom, the power and the glory”
of Jesus is not realized in full stomachs;
nor in worldly trappings of power,
but only in the Cross.
To see the miracle of bread and fish—
Seeing the miracle in the horror of the Cross?
That’s a lot harder.
For that, our hearts must be prepared for faith
by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Paul taught that;
it underlies his words in the second reading.
And the same preparation is necessary for us
to enter into the miracle of the Mass.
The Mass presupposes some things:
Catholic faith and unity:
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism,”
as Paul said;
“living in a manner worthy of the call”
we have received.
It presupposes faith when we look at this altar:
will we know it is Jesus truly acting there,
or is it just a fancy table,
with a guy in funny clothes?
Seeing that miracle isn’t so easy.
It takes a miraculous change in us.
This is what the opening rituals
of the Mass emphasize.
We acknowledge our sins,
to remind ourselves, why we needed his mercy;
and what we’re grateful for:
We were washed clean in baptism,
and we’ve been renewed
by frequent confession.
The more we have to be grateful for,
the more we enter into that prayer:
“Glory to God in the highest!”
If we come to Mass,
not able to come to communion,
we still know where that mercy comes from:
from His Sacrifice;
that’s the source of all mercy,
all the sacraments.
When I talk about “entering in,”
we ought to admit, sometimes,
we don’t want to do that.
We’d rather keep our distance.
Remember when we were kids…
or how your own kids, do this:
You take the kids to do something fun,
and what happens—they cross their arms,
dig in their heels, and say,
“Oh no—you can’t make me!”
Grownups do that, too!
Making that transition, from ordinary cares,
to the miracle of the Mass, is hard.
Letting go of cares and worries—it’s hard.
I’ve heard folks say,
“Somebody has to worry about that!”
Yeah—who says it has to be you?
God’ll be up all night, either way!
Let me say: if this hour, here,
is the only real time we pray,
we may find it a lot harder
to make that transition.
This is where daily prayer is so important.
Prayers like the Rosary are so powerful,
because they teach us to meditate,
we can develop the habit of inner quiet,
even when all around is insanity.
This is why quiet—here— is important;
We need a refuge—a sacred place.
This is why I try to calm
the busy-ness of the sacristy—
Why I am reluctant
to “do business” just before Mass.
I need quiet, beforehand, too!
Servers—this is why I ask you
to show up 15 minutes ahead of time—
you need it, as well.
Same for the readers and others.
Maybe a moment ago,
we weren’t really ready;
Maybe we missed our chance to prepare.
OK; let’s pause, then,
and let God give us another chance,
so that at this Mass—today, here!—
we really meet Jesus!
To be open to him, so he can change us.