Sunday, August 19, 2012

What the Mass really is (Sunday homily)

If there is anyone here who ever said,
“I don’t understand what the Mass is all about,”
this is your day; this homily is for you!

I’m going to explain some critical things about the Mass—
which, I suspect, a lot of folks, even Catholics,
don’t understand about the Mass.

The Lord’s words in the Gospel are blunt, even shocking:
 ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood…my flesh is real food,
and my blood is real drink’;
and unless you do, “you do not have life in you.”

Sometimes people try to soften the sharp edges
of things our Lord says in the Gospel—
this passage is a case in point.
People will try to say our Lord
was only speaking symbolically or metaphorically.

But notice: his hearers didn’t take it that way.
They were shocked by his words:
“eat my flesh” and “drink my blood.”

So why does our Lord say these things?

Jesus is talking about sacrifice and covenant.

If I agree to mow your lawn each week for, say, $20—that’s a contract.
If I don’t show up, or I don’t do a good job, you fire me; no more contract.

A covenant is something deeper—it binds forever, and it’s claim is total.
A covenant included a sacrifice to express how serious it was.
The idea was, what happened to the animal, happens to me,
if I don’t honor this covenant.

And sometimes, they would eat the sacrifice as a meal.

God’s People were slaves in Egypt.
When God delivered them, remember what they did?
They took a lamb, put the blood on the doorpost;
And on that night, when the first-born of Egypt died,
God saved his people—by the blood of the lamb.

Remember what John the Baptist called Jesus?
The priest says it at every single Mass,
right before we receive communion:
“Behold the Lamb of God—
behold him who takes away the sins of the world!”

When the Lord goes to the cross, that is the offering—
he is both the high priest making the offering,
and the Lamb being offered.

So what is Mass? Mass is our Passover!
That sacrifice, back then, becomes real and present here and now.
The Cross comes to us; or—if you prefer—we are taken there.

Again, this is no metaphor.
The Mass is a true and real sacrifice.
This is why we don’t mess around with the Mass;
because nothing is more sacred, nothing is more solemn than this.

This is why attending Mass is a requirement on all Catholics—
and it’s a mortal sin to skip Mass without a good reason.
This is why receiving communion is not a thing to be casual about.
If we have any mortal sins, we go to confession first.

And, this is why we don’t invite anyone to come to communion.
A lot of our fellow Christians have developed their own ideas about this,
but as Catholics, we’ve had the same practice since the first century:
we share the Eucharist only with fellow Catholics who have confessed their sins.

Some will say, “I don’t like Mass to be too solemn; it should be joyful!”

Well…it’s both.

You and I are standing at the Cross. Mary is right here with us,
so are Mary Magdalene and the others. They’re here.
They are gazing at Jesus on the Cross as he dies for us.
That’s pretty solemn.

Yet, we come, knowing He rose from the dead.
We know that blood we see is our salvation!
That’s pretty joyful!

Nothing else in the universe is like the Mass.
We come here and shed tears: tears of sorrow; and tears of joy.


A Catholic Comes Home said...

Best explanation I have read in long time.

CatholicMom said...

Father Fox,
This is the best homily I have ever read/heard on this topic.

I think it takes a lot of guts to post your homilies because you are putting yourself out there to be analyzed. (There are others that won't do this.)

I really enjoy reading them. I'm sure many others do as well. Thank you!

A Catholic Comes Home said...

will link to my blog,if you dont mind Father.

Anonymous said...

Awesome father thank you!

Fr Martin Fox said...


I added the link to your page.