Making the Most of Mass
The Holy Mass is such a beautiful gift for Catholics. Every day in a Catholic church we GET to receive Jesus, body, blood, soul, and divinity into ourselves so that we can be united with Christ (John 6:56) as we are intended to be from the very beginning. He pours out His very blood that was shed on the cross into the cup for us for forgiveness of sins, which brings us life. Just like the food taken into our body strengthens us, so too the Eucharist strengthens us spiritually (CCC 1394). Looking at my own life, I know I need the strength from God to continue, because I can’t do it on my own. The temptation to live for myself rather than for Christ is too strong to resist on my own accord.
Knowing the importance of the Eucharist and attending mass, I still struggle to be attentive and actively participate in the sacrifice that’s happening right before my eyes. Someone once told me that they didn’t like to go to mass because they don’t always “get something out of it.” This comment deeply troubled me, because their perception was that Mass was supposed to entertain or that they were going to a show of some sorts. I looked at this person with great love and said “What do you put into it?”
My response to this question prompted me to think about my participation in mass in a new light. Rather than viewing mass as something I’m attending, I realized that mass is something in which I am a participant. My “Amen” confirms that I have a role in the mass and I am bringing my own gifts and petitions to the altar in union with the whole Church. The movements of my body (sit, stand, kneel, repeat) reflect and makes visible the invisible. It leaves me longing for eternity. We can mindlessly go through the motions at mass, but if we do we miss out on the supreme gift and invitation to extraordinary love.
I find football boring because I don’t know the rules or regulations. I can assume that if I didn’t know what was going on at Mass, I would feel similarly. The Church calls the Eucharistic celebration the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). If we are stuck at the bottom of the mountain and refuse to put in the work to get to the top, we’ll never experience the view.
To properly respond to this invitation, we should prepare ourselves and allow ourselves to be truly present. Here’s a few ways to engage your heart, mind, soul, and body in mass that could potentially change everything:
Go to Confession
St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “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 anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”
Before receiving Holy Communion, the Church requires that we not be in a state of mortal sin, because we are separated from God in that state. Once we go to confession and turn our back to sin we can finally face Him again. With all mortal sins forgiven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are ready to receive Jesus in the most intimate way possible—the Eucharist.
Read the readings ahead of time
This has particularly been instrumental for me to enter into Mass, because I already have an idea of the meanings of the scriptures and I am able focus on the personal message that God has for me in His word. Ask God to open your heart to His voice in the scriptures and you will hear Him.
Get to Mass early to prepare
You know that awkward moment when you’re walking into the church and the priest and altar servers are already lined up and you have to quickly speed walk past them so you don’t hold up the procession into the church? We all have done it once or twice. When we arrive early we get a chance to center ourselves and focus on what matters. When we feel rushed or in a hurry we get distracted easily. Get to mass about 10-15 minutes early to “empty your cup” so there is room for Him to fill it.
Sing during Mass
St. Augustine once said, “he who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing about.” This is why we sing – it is an artistic form of vocal prayer, and an expression of our love for God. There is music at mass, in a very basic sense, because it helps beautify and elevate our prayer. If that doesn’t convince you to open up the hymnal, I don’t know what will.
Pray after Mass
After receiving Jesus we should be filled with thanksgiving. Sometimes we want to run out of mass to get to class, work, lunch, or whatever we have going on, but take some time to thank Jesus for allowing you to receive such an intimate and sincere gift.
Here’s a link to one of my favorite prayers you can pray after mass:
The Mass is so deep and filled with history, symbolism, and tradition. There’s so much to learn. Don’t stop studying the Mass. The words of St. Jean Vianney echo in my mind:
“If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”