Catholic Mass: Can we get what is going on? Part 5

0717132025

SOME FINAL ADDED THINGS ON CATHOLIC WORSHIP IN MASS

Part A

Can we Catholics “get” what is going on in the Holy Mass?  Why do we do Mass the way we do?  In this age of flickering images, sound effects, comfort and treats, instant gratification, big productions and “loud” people– we could put on a show of Christianity!

As I heard once said, of why we don’t do that as Catholics: It’s because Christianity isn’t Lord.   Jesus is Lord. We are not worshipping God as in “Hey,look at us!”   God is rather asking: “Please, look to Me and listen to Me and heed, if you will live.”  We come, thus,  and worship Him.  Yes, we can come in singing and with gladness and love, and community is important to a parish too.  Still–our main focus is to gather for Word and Sacrament–we come to encounter The Lord Himself.   It is HIS Mass.  It is Holy because HE IS THERE.   It is fitting to do because the SAVIOR HIMSELF ESTABLISHED IT.

We pray in this way and assembled manner, and will do so until the Lord’s Second Coming, because it has been so since the Church’s start.   In 1st Corinthians 11:23-29, St. Paul gives us this instruction on the Mass.  “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  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.”

I especially highlight how the Holy Mass is meant to go through time in the verse:  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

We also take seriously the Word of God which says to eat the Eucharist or consume the Precious Blood not “in an unworthy manner,” and upon an examination of conscience (which may call for the Reconciliation Sacrament to be exercised by us).   Do you think those two points from the St. Paul’s parish in Corinth are followed well in Bowie parishes?

Part B

Sacred Liturgy is all about how God is to be served as is fitting to Him. God has shown to us in certain ways of how He would like to be worshipped and what we are to believe and hold to as His children. The Catholic Church keeps that revelation in mind.   We hold to traditions because we are One Church, in One Faith and Baptism in Christ.   We also hold to traditions because we call the last 2000 years of Catholics/ Christians are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It is one family, and it is global and historical.   It lives to be under Christ Jesus in that unity.

We are much about orthodoxy and fidelity, as well as faith and family and marriage, as well as dedicated single life and vocations.  We are about respect for life from womb to the tomb.   Our attention is on service of God.   We orient ourselves for respecting God in His Holy Temple, and we keep the Lord in tabernacle in the church, too, by Sacrament.  We also bow down to the Lord to be tabernacled by His Body and Blood.  This is important in our worship.

If one misses the fact that Catholics gather to truly experience Jesus in the Mass, or they attend a Mass but not recognize the deference to the One Who is in their midst in the Sacred Liturgy, then one could altogether not understand at all what was taking place there in that Catholic church.  The attention is on His arrival (or maybe said:  our arrival to His Presence.)   The Mass is about union with Jesus Christ, building on our baptismal relationship in Him as born anew to live by grace.

In speaking on the differences of Catholic Mass to an independent Christian church’s praise and worship service (which are increasing in popularity), these words were written down as a compilation of some Catholics who wish to confess their love of Holy Mass and say why:

 We don’t first come to church for the feel good benefits bestowed on me.   We come to bless the Lord, and do so with others of Jesus’ friends, and Jesus gathers us and we offer up His One Pleasing Sacrifice of Himself to the Father, as the Spirit comes in the church for the encounter of the Son’s Body and Blood.  It is a Trinitarian worship.  All Three Divine Persons are with us.  We come as children of the Father, and pray to Him, and we give ourselves as won by Christ, to Him, even embodied in the Lord, as Jesus unites us to Himself (for we are not worthy alone).     At mid-Mass, we present ourselves as gifts to the Lord at His altar. If there is a feel good moment at Mass, it is here, for one can know they truly join into Jesus, in the Mass.  We are sinners, but He is holy.  We are reborn in the Spirit, but still need so much to be led by Him into Jesus’ righteousness.  When the Spirit comes down upon the gifts, He comes down on us, for we are offered at the parish altar too. We also bring some gifts for His Church or the poor or some other needs, in the collection, as we witness to God at each Sunday Mass that we are His servants.  All we have is His.  We can part with a sacrificial gift to Him, for it shows our thanksgiving and our priorities, that He is First.  It is part of our offering of self.   The main thing is we offer ourselves.   We are not worthy to receive back from the Lord, and so we each say the prayer at Mass of that confession (Lord Have Mercy…Lamb of God, have mercy on us…. Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…) yet God offers me the best Gift everytime I could ever desire in the Sacrament of His Son.  O “say the Word and my soul shall be healed.”   It is gracious for God to bless us in His house, with our brothers and sisters in Christ.   # # #

Do you have that above Catholic Faith?    It is something to aim for.

As I compare some of these megachurches and independent and “new” churches to our Catholic ones, I have found some stark differences between us.  I have seen it first-hand sometimes.   I visited a church near a Christmas time and they even charged a high admission price to get in for a December service(because of their putting on a show). I’d say that they had something they wanted to “get” from that church gathering— hype, hipness, new members, and money.  It did not seem to me to glorify and worship Jesus (though maybe it entertained Him?!).  The whole experience made me worried for those Christians.

A Catholic Bishop commented on such things going on as “church” in America now, and he commented that, in the end, these kind of above-mentioned services are doing harm to the Christian Church.  He explained why:  ‘Liturgy is not meant first for this kind of evangelization or attention-making, for our direction is praise of God, not man.  Worship may bring sweet fruits from it, but we are focused on giving unto Him, not producing an effect from Him.  We are not fruit making, but worshipping the Lord in how He has asked us, and we shall get fruits because of good liturgy and faith, not as a mechanism to produce it ourselves.’

Ok.

What of their experience in that megachurch?   If “benefits” and feel good effects really were the primary goal of that worship service, supplanting the submissive praise of God as their purpose, then they might have to come to some renewal in worship, for the said-approach can do the liturgy/worship time much harm, and make the fruits from it hard to realize. Soon, people will either feel “off” in the church prayers or they might fall into a lots of self-centeredness in the Christian feeling but not necessarily be pleasing to the Lord (no matter how loud the songs or singing gets).  In Rock concerts like with Paul McCartney Band in DC last weekend, it is ok for everyone to just get lost in the emotions and their love of music and a crowd gathered.  It’s a show.  Yet some megachurch (and much smaller ones) have turned to showy productions and called it “church.” It is designed to attract and please the senses.   I just can’t see that as happy with the Sermon on the Mount with Jesus (now featuring two music acts and large screens and many t-shirts for sale)!

I suppose there is a temptation to always wonder what you are going to “get” out of something.    Our lives are busy but feeling more empty and unfulfilled—  and we have hurts and needs (and wants) that have a hunger that wants its gratification in a selfish age—  and we deal so much with surface appearances and hyped, sense-appeal things and being serviced and pleased by others  THAT Church could become something that we brought such expectations to “get something from.”  Yet it is the wrong approach.   We should be glad that God even wants to gather us and love us and feed us, seeing what the human race right now has been sadly capable of doing (in the negative).  We ought to be coming humbly and in repentance and looking to serve others in the church, not to be served.

Part C

In this series of blogs, we have wondered about church.   I have encouraged you (and myself) to try to rather not look to consume from the Church but to present yourself as an offering to the Lord and His Church through her Holy Mass.   If we would want to “get” something–let us want to “get” Jesus better, and to “get” what His liturgy has been all about for His people and what makes it so beautiful for Him. 

We Catholics should value that we have Jesus’ Sacramental Presence and High Priest Presence in our Masses.  “Blessed is He Who comes!”

Jesus loves presenting us to the Father through the Mass.  Jesus the Son loves how the Holy Spirit comes to bring the miracle to our Masses in the Eucharist and gives inspiration and direction from the proclaimed Word and the community’s prayer.  Jesus loves imparting His holiness to us.

These are the wonders that we share in the Catholic Mass.   No wonder the past three popes have strived so much to have the faithful to understand better and to love what we have in it.    They have called us to be faithful in praying the Mass and to come and give with full hearts to the Lord all He is due.   If millions pray the Mass in the worldwide Church each week, and they do so with devotion and love, then we can be glad what The Lord is getting from us.

The Lord is the One Who should always be the focus of Who will “get something” out of the parish’s Mass.

That is what is needed.

 

Catholic Mass: Can we get what is going on? Part 4

Sacred Liturgy Image

From a first post to this one, I have been discussing the Sacred Liturgy:  Can we “get” what is going on?

We talked a lot about one’s disposition to be able to “get” much out of Mass.   We talked about what makes our worship traditional and Christ-centered.  We’ve looked at some Scriptures.

In this blog, I want to comment on this:  We were made to worship the Lord.  Yes, we are so designed!.   By our Baptism (and other Sacraments) we are being renewed to enter into His Gates with thanksgiving and come into His Courts with praise.   By our covenant relationship by the Sacraments, we have entered into a salvation relationship to Christ as His Body (or embodied believers in Him, the Church).    There is a Sacred Liturgy by which we, then, match up to encounter our Lord in the Holy Mass.

Let’s talk about the fact that we were designed to be able to worship God.   While we have had that area of ourselves fractured by sin, and it has begun us all in a fallen state with God (“original sin”), we have been offered a way to be renewed and restored, even if by one stage/holy step at a time.   And we have been offered the opportunity to worship in many Masses, if we’d like.

Indeed, all human persons are made to worship God.  God in Christ Jesus has given us access of worship, as the Savior explained, “you shall worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)” and He repeatedly spoke of “An Hour that was coming” for its possibility through Him (John 2:4, 4:23, 5:25).  At the Last Supper and at the Cross, Jesus then spoke of the “Hour’s” fulfillment, saying at last, at table “This is My Body… This is the Blood of the New Covenant.   Now do this in memory of Me…”   then, at Calvary… “It is consummated!  Into Your Hands (Father), I commend My Spirit.”   (John ch. 18 & 19)

At Holy Mass we stand at that place of encounter with God.

Let me repeat:  At Holy Mass we stand at THAT place of ENCOUNTER WITH GOD.   We join Jesus there in Mystery, where His Death and Resurrection changes things for humankind.

It’s the Mystery of Faith.  We pray “Save us, Savior of the world, for by Your Cross and Resurrection You have set us free.”

In Christ Jesus, by His Body and Blood Sacrifice touching us in Sacrament, we can then pray: Into Your Hands, O Lord, do I commend myself.      It is a movement from the Cross and Resurrection to our surrender to God’s will.   Grace calls us to favor in God.

We are ‘neath the Cross for forgiveness, while also ready to present ourselves to God for new lifeI, and pray with Jesus to The Father:  “Thy will be done now in Me.”

In that graced moment of encounter, transformation is possible.

As we Catholics teach about the Holy Mass, it is through right worship in the Sacred Liturgy that we receive transformation into the Lord.   We are transformed, as by partaking of the divine nature.  This is a real transformation.   As we go and do in Mass what Jesus’ Word asks from us (i.e. “Do this” Luke 22:19/  1 Cor. 11:23-27/ and  “offer yourselves to God” Rom. 6:13-16 / Rom. 12:1-8) we enter into the Pascal Mystery.  We are in the Mystery of Faith, as we say in Mass:  “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until You come again.”   God meets us in that mystery, right at Mass.  It is Holy Action.  It is obedient response.   We proclaim.  We profess.   We humble ourselves.  We submit to God and look to be in His Presence together.  We sup with Him as people relying on His holiness to us, not on our own light.   His Sacrament is the focus, not our worthiness.  In fact we pray before Communion:  “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come… (but You called me, so)  only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Healing.   Encounter.    God’s Favor.    Holy Action.   Mystery.              Can it be immediately seen and felt?  Not quite.    As St. Thomas wrote (and which people at Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament know as its prayer):  “What the senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through Faith’s consent.”   We have shortcomings on our human side of the equation; yet God has supplied us contact with Him in the manner of faith.   We have a means to respond and connect, in the soul, though we are so weak in our acknowledgement of this dynamic and real aspect of our selves.  Yet it is where transformation meets us.  In the realm of faith.   God works with matter and physicality (Sacrament), yet it does take faith to “grasp it all.”

Faith is fueling the transformation.

Thus, it is very important that people are coming to Mass in dynamic faith.  They need to be seeking God, yearning for His love fully, and denying the self that so still clings to sin and worldliness.   We give up the world and our “self” to get connection with God.  That’s Sacred Liturgy disposition.   What needs to be is that we want to “get Christ and His Lordship within us.”   To get Him and lose our sinful self-absorption.  (To “get” Him really means that we allow Him to “get” us.  This is what Jesus was getting at when He said:  ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

Right after He said this teaching, He led some apostles up the mountain for the Transfiguration.    It was no mere coincidence.   They were at this place of losing themselves to “get” Jesus, and they found transformative experience on that Week of Tabernacles with the Lord at Mt. Tabor.

Transformation will be realized fully at the end of our lives, we hope, when our practice of being with Christ faithfully (such as in Eucharist and also by Scripture in our worship) will have led us intimately into His Love. He will take us up into His Holy Tabernacle, His Dwelling Place.

Mass is “getting” together with Jesus in His Sacrament Visit, in showing the connection of Heaven and Earth in Him.   We pray “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.  Heaven and Earth are full of Your Glory.  Hosanna in the Highest… Blessed is He Who Comes…. in the Name of the Lord…. Hosanna in the Highest!”) and if only we all could believe this better.  The Lord of Hosts Comes to us!  Blessed is He Who Comes!!  We call on His Name, in the Mass He gave to us, and there is encounter available.

Encounter meant to lead to transformation.

It is why Jesus says “Abide (remain) in Me” so passionately to us in this same Gospel of John (ch. 15). Because we are experiencing the Lord by degrees, we can truly call our faith life a pilgrimage.   A pilgrimage in The Body and Blood of Christ brings forth the longed-for transformation. . By degrees is the Kingdom of God happening in us so to the measure of how we are participating actively in the vital opportunities afforded to us to bond with Him.  How more so than in the Sacred Liturgy? In all our many appointments with Jesus in the Masses of our life, do we realize that they are truly remarkable times with Him, just like those ones that the apostles and disciples had with the Jesus of Galilee?!

As a liturgy expert puts it:  “United to the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we are shining with the divine light of His Transfiguration, and are part of his sanctifying presence on earth. To the degree that we conform, the grace with which we do anything, mundane or sacred, radiates the beauty of God and calls people to it, and then beyond to the source of that Beauty.”

He explains it further:  “Sacred liturgy is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, and this is how we love God most profoundly. It is the purpose of life – the summit to which our lives point – and the most powerful source of grace that will help us to get there…  Holy Mass is a school of love that perfects our social relations and our family life and by this society as a whole. “

Indeed, it  is our regular meeting and supping relationship with Christ Jesus, where we come hungry for the love and grace of God to fill our lives, so much as to pour forth in goodness to our relationship with others.    This school of love is meant to teach our mind and hearts that Christ is now with us, that the Incarnation (God’s indwelling) is meant to capture us  and spread to many others.  The liturgist calls this faith reality as an “intelligence of the heart,” that is, a knowing of things in the fullest way, in love, in Christ.   If we could understand that it really is Christ Who is present to give us wisdom, lead us in strength, and to stimulate us to be moved into the ways of the Kingdom.

To experience the fruits of Sacred Liturgy, we are not to reduce it to mere rituals and hocus-pocus words.   We also cannot skip to the blessing part of encounter with God, and forget the sacrifice and cost on our part.  If the Savior had a cost to win us, then there will be a cost for us.  Before we get on to the benefits of the liturgy and what we want from it, we have better just “bow down and worship the Lord and put all else aside (Psalm 95:6).  For the Church worldwide, our goal is to offer God what is pleasing to Him, and make no demands, as we are but His servants.  As Psalm 96:7-10 teaches us about worship, the Psalmist pleads “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and might…glory due to His Name!  Bring gifts and enter His courts, bow down to the Lord, (Who is) Splendid in Holiness… Tremble before God, all the earth, say among the nations, God is King!”.

So, we don’t come looking to “get” as in our demands and conditions before God, but we look to be “gotten.”

Perhaps that is one of the keys of a good disposition for Mass.

END

 

SOME ADDED NOTES ON WORSHIP  taken from a Liturgy Publication

 If BENEFITS become the primary goal of a worship service, supplanting the submissive PRAISE OF GOD as our purpose, we do the liturgy much harm, and make the fruits hard to realize. 

One megachurch turns many of their services at certain festive times of the year to be some kind of show.  It is a service made to attract interest and followers. They have something they want to get from it– new members–that is, benefits. (They even charge admission to see the super Christmas and Easter shows!) It is hyping Jesus at the cost of not really having a sincere worship service.  A Catholic Bishop commented on such things, as while such gatherings are entertaining in a sort of a spiritual way, that they are doing harm in the end to the Christian Church: (He said something like this) ‘Liturgy is not meant first for this kind of evangelization or attention-making, for our direction is praise of God, not man.  Worship may bring sweet fruits from it, but we are focused on giving unto Him, not producing an effect from Him.  We are not fruit making, but worshipping the Lord in how He has asked us, and we shall get fruits because of good liturgy and faith, not as a mechanism to produce it ourselves.’                                                   Very interesting.

 

Of course, while some in Christianity strive to have a hip and entertaining service these days, and so stumble over their less than stellar intentions, it seems that the BIGGER PROBLEM is not off-centered worship services by some Christians, but the growing problem of people not taking any interest for any worship service or Mass to attend at all.    

Part of this problem is that Catholics are not sharing to the world what is professed to be going on in our Church.   What are some of the amazing things we profess?  We believe Christ is Truly Present in Holy Mass.   We believe that we are forming into a Body of Christ–really so–as being joined to Jesus mystically and sacramentally as His own.    We believe angels and saints are taking part in our worship, and that our liturgy is co-celebrated with the Eternal Banquet in Heaven, where the Lamb of God (Jesus) reigns.  We believe we have one worship going on before the Almighty, with Jesus leading it, while using his ordained signs and instruments and people for His good will and purposes.  We believe we are the same believers who Jesus formed to be His Church, whom He said would last until His Return, even though the Gates of Hell wage war upon us spiritually, and cause mankind to turn on us too.  We believe in a God of mercy and of justice.  We believe His Divine Son is Jesus, Who alone saves the world.  We believe it is vital to repent of our sin and find life in the kingdom of God/ realm of the Lord. 

Does the world know this about us?   Do they see us believing it?  Do we show how great this salvation in Christ Jesus is to us, and of Christ’ Church, His body?        

If the world sees this kind of witness (or could see this witness of us today), we then believe we’d be for them (as Jesus asked of us to be as ) “the light of the world…a City up on the hill which cannot be hidden.”  

That is what we want to be as Church, as ones praying the Holy Mass.                                                        #####

We live in a society that is trying to do away with all public religion, too (or, at least, Christianity’s presence), and they want us to hide our love of God behind private walls.  Each week I read of anti-religious groups hell bent on getting public prayer or public symbols of faith out of the public stream.   A statue of Jesus in a memorial park is the latest one I heard of today.  (That’ll be in another upcoming blog and it’s in my next parish bulletin –go and see www.stedwardbowie.org. )  Yet family and parish leaders and many others in the Church should be championing the cause of religious freedom and saying The Church is here and we are in love with our God. We are glad to have parishes in our neighborhoods across America, and we go there to worship God, and then we take our encounter of Him on our Sundays (and other days) and spread His love to the nation and world. Jesus tells us “we are salt of the earth…” so we must be poured forth from the salt-shaker out onto people and society. “What good is salt kept away from where it will serve its good?  What good is salt that loses it flavor or properties?” *                          *=Mt. 5  Jesus said that of us.  

Wherever a vibrant Catholic goes in society, they are taking the liturgy with them.   We ARE salt.  As a Bishop said to a Catholic college recently, in asking them to be a beacon of faith, rather than an apologizing school for being Catholic:  ‘Sacred Liturgy is the summit of all that we do. If our formation directs people to the Sacred Liturgy (and) in the right spirit making the worship of God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit…(if this is) the central focus of all that we do, then the fruits will ensue…(and we want that) all of human activity and culture – all of it – (to)… potentially, be imbued with the grace that derives from this liturgical spirit….”  and Fr. Paul Gunter OSB added: “(we do hope for God to here)… instill in us a liturgical instinct that stimulates our sensitivity to liturgical forms -(into) a ‘liturgical high culture’  … ‘ we want our Catholic school to be a place to learn liturgy.. . (really) on every campus (like ours here at Thomas More College, N.H.) there should be the opportunity of participation in beautiful sacred liturgy and…the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours…Eucharistic adoration should be encouraged and all private devotions and prayer should be understood as being derived from and pointing to the liturgy…there should be a constant invitation to be part of Sacred Liturgy… It is participation in the liturgy that increases our capacity for this loving knowledge.

He said that the Mass is not just a place for sending us forth with Jesus, but it is where we come back to the Lord after being in His world (His vineyard) all week long.  All of our lived experiences are also meant to reference back to the Sacred Liturgy, too. We bring tback o the Mass all that we see and experience, with all the concerns and contentments of the week, back to Sunday and Holy Mass. 

0717132025

Catholic Mass: Can we get what is going on? Part 3

0717131542 This is Part 3 of our Blog Series on Can we “get” what is going on in Catholic Mass.    It is in reply to one who might say:  I don’t get anything out of Mass.

I think that this statement can be one’s honest appeal to God THAT they want to get something out of Mass and could the Lord please provide it?

I have written about what IS the Holy Mass and of the importance of one’s disposition in coming to Mass.

(If you are new to the Church or in investigating it or in returning to it from a long absence, I would refer you to join our RCIA class in the parish, which will give you a whole course on the Catholic Faith.  Ask about it if that is “you” that needs it.)

Someone wrote a Devotional Book a few years back.  It was called GOD CALLING.  A lot of people picked up that book and read it, because they sensed that God was calling, or could be calling them.  They wanted to pick up the line and communicate to Him.

We all really want a loving and true communication with God.

Indeed, all human persons are made to worship God.  God in Christ Jesus has given us this access of worship, as the Savior explained, “you shall worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)” and He repeatedly spoke of “An Hour that was coming” for its possibility through Him (John 2:4, 4:23, 5:25).  At the Last Supper and at the Cross, Jesus then spoke of the Hour’s fulfillment, saying at last, at table “This is My Body… This is the Blood of the New Covenant.   Now do this in memory of Me…”   then, at Calvary… “It is consummated!  Into Your Hands (Father), I commend My Spirit.”   (John ch. 18 & 19)

At Holy Mass we stand at that place of encounter with God.

Let me repeat:  At Holy Mass we stand at THAT place of ENCOUNTER WITH GOD.   We join Jesus there in Mystery, where His Death and Resurrection changes things for humankind.

It’s the Mystery of Faith.  We pray “Save us, Savior of the world, for by Your Cross and Resurrection You have set us free.”

In Christ Jesus, by His Body and Blood Sacrifice touching us in Sacrament, we can then pray: Into Your Hands, O Lord, do I commend myself.      It is a movement from the Cross and Resurrection to our surrender to God’s will.   Grace calls us to favor in God.

We are ‘neath the Cross for forgiveness, while also ready to present ourselves to God for new lifeI, and pray with Jesus to The Father:  “Thy will be done now in Me.”

In that graced moment of encounter, transformation is possible.

As we Catholics teach about the Holy Mass, it is through right worship in the Sacred Liturgy that we receive transformation into the Lord.   We are transformed, as by partaking of the divine nature.  This is a real transformation.   As we go and do in Mass what Jesus’ Word asks from us (i.e. “Do this” Luke 22:19/  1 Cor. 11:23-27/ and  “offer yourselves to God” Rom. 6:13-16 / Rom. 12:1-8) we enter into the Pascal Mystery.  We are in the Mystery of Faith, as we say in Mass:  “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until You come again.”   God meets us in that mystery, right at Mass.  It is Holy Action.  It is obedient response.   We proclaim.  We profess.   We humble ourselves.  We submit to God and look to be in His Presence together.  We sup with Him as people relying on His holiness to us, not on our own light.   His Sacrament is the focus, not our worthiness.  In fact we pray before Communion:  “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come… (but You called me, so)  only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Healing.   Encounter.    God’s Favor.    Holy Action.   Mystery.    Can it be immediately seen and felt?  Not quite.    As St. Thomas wrote (and which people at Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament know as its prayer):  “What the senses fail to fathom, let us grasp through Faith’s consent.”   We have shortcomings on our human side of the equation; yet God has supplied us contact with Him in the manner of faith.   We have a means to respond and connect, in the soul, though we are so weak in our acknowledgement of this dynamic and real aspect of our selves.  Yet it is where transformation meets us.  In the realm of faith.   God works with matter and physicality (Sacrament), yet it does take faith to “grasp it all.”

Faith is fueling the transformation.

Thus, it is very important that people are coming to Mass in dynamic faith.  They need to be seeking God, yearning for His love fully, and denying the self that so still clings to sin and worldliness.   We give up the world and our “self” to get connection with God.  That’s Sacred Liturgy disposition.   What needs to be is that we want to “get Christ and His Lordship within us.”   To get Him and lose our sinful self-absorption.  (To “get” Him really means that we allow Him to “get” us.  This is what Jesus was getting at when He said:  ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25)

Right after He said this teaching, He led some apostles up the mountain for the Transfiguration.    It was no mere coincidence.   They were at this place of losing themselves to “get” Jesus, and they found transformative experience on that Week of Tabernacles with the Lord at Mt. Tabor.

Transformation will be realized fully at the end of our lives, we hope, when our practice of being with Christ faithfully (such as in Eucharist and also by Scripture in our worship) will have led us intimately into His Love. He will take us up into His Holy Tabernacle, His Dwelling Place.

Mass is “getting” together with Jesus in His Sacrament Visit, in showing the connection of Heaven and Earth in Him.   We pray “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.  Heaven and Earth are full of Your Glory.  Hosanna in the Highest… Blessed is He Who Comes…. in the Name of the Lord…. Hosanna in the Highest!”) and if only we all could believe this better.  The Lord of Hosts Comes to us!  Blessed is He Who Comes!!  We call on His Name, in the Mass He gave to us, and there is encounter available.

Encounter meant to lead to transformation.

It is why Jesus says “Abide (remain) in Me” so passionately to us in this same Gospel of John (ch. 15). Because we are experiencing the Lord by degrees, we can truly call our faith life a pilgrimage.   A pilgrimage in The Body and Blood of Christ brings forth the longed-for transformation. . By degrees is the Kingdom of God happening in us so to the measure of how we are participating actively in the vital opportunities afforded to us to bond with Him.  How more so than in the Sacred Liturgy? In all our many appointments with Jesus in the Masses of our life, do we realize that they are truly remarkable times with Him, just like those ones that the apostles and disciples had with the Jesus of Galilee?!

As a liturgy expert puts it:  “United to the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we are shining with the divine light of His Transfiguration, and are part of his sanctifying presence on earth. To the degree that we conform, the grace with which we do anything, mundane or sacred, radiates the beauty of God and calls people to it, and then beyond to the source of that Beauty.”

He explains it further:  “Sacred liturgy is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, and this is how we love God most profoundly. It is the purpose of life – the summit to which our lives point – and the most powerful source of grace that will help us to get there…  Holy Mass is a school of love that perfects our social relations and our family life and by this society as a whole. “

Indeed, it  is our regular meeting and supping relationship with Christ Jesus, where we come hungry for the love and grace of God to fill our lives, so much as to pour forth in goodness to our relationship with others.    This school of love is meant to teach our mind and hearts that Christ is now with us, that the Incarnation (God’s indwelling) is meant to capture us  and spread to many others.  The liturgist calls this faith reality as an “intelligence of the heart,” that is, a knowing of things in the fullest way, in love, in Christ.   If we could understand that it really is Christ Who is present to give us wisdom, lead us in strength, and to stimulate us to be moved into the ways of the Kingdom.

To experience the fruits of Sacred Liturgy, we are not to reduce it to mere rituals and hocus-pocus words.   We also cannot skip to the blessing part of encounter with God, and forget the sacrifice and cost on our part.  If the Savior had a cost to win us, then there will be a cost for us.  Before we get on to the benefits of the liturgy and what we want from it, we have better just “bow down and worship the Lord and put all else aside (Psalm 95:6).  For the Church worldwide, our goal is to offer God what is pleasing to Him, and make no demands, as we are but His servants.  As Psalm 96:7-10 teaches us about worship, the Psalmist pleads “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and might…glory due to His Name!  Bring gifts and enter His courts, bow down to the Lord, (Who is) Splendid in Holiness… Tremble before God, all the earth, say among the nations, God is King!”.

So, we don’t come looking to “get” as in our demands and conditions before God, but we look to be “gotten.”

Perhaps that is the answer to the starting question of this blog:  How can you “get” something out of Mass?  Perhaps you instead shoud look to be “gotten.”   Say, Lord, Here I Am.   I am yours.  Can we begin there?

END

 

Catholic Mass: Can we get what is going on? Part 2

0717131542  PART TWO

Let me speak a little more personally about the Eucharist in this second post. For me, what I have found thus far is that The Holy Mass IS TRULY a special Heaven-to-earth experience.   I do all I can on my part to be able to receive into this connection and communion with God.  This is called one’s disposition.  We can also it “tuning in to God.”   We human beings all have a receiver within us for His ‘wavelength’ and we must ‘move the setting’ to find how we may glorify Jesus Christ in our being.   It can just be called simply as being ready for the blessing.  I don’t just show up at Mass for Eucharist.  I show to God that it is a big deal for me.  How can I serve You, Lord?  How shall You want me to meet You, Lord?  These are the kind of approaches of setting one’s disposition for encounter with God.

I want to be ready for the special prayer that is The Mass.

Properly putting oneself in Jesus Christ in the Holy Mass disposes you (and all other like-hearted worshippers ) for transformation in The Lord God.    Transformation is a word I like to use of why I go to Mass.   There is inward transformation going on and true personal contact with God in it, and we give witness to the others who come to Mass that we want to fully become children of God.   We know that God has work to do in us to that purpose.  The Bible says: “that He Who has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ… you are all partakers of grace with me (Paul)… and this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight)…  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, ”

What Philippians 1:6-10 says is that Jesus has begun The Way of Faith with us, but He also desires to keep doing a  good work in us, right up to “The Day” of His Second Coming.   He has begun His saving work in us (meaning, He’s not finished) and He has purpose for us of having love abound in us and better knowledge of Him and for a purity of life that requires us to have much contact and communication with Him.  Mass will put us greatly in place for God to do His work in us.  At Mass, if we are coming for this purpose to “partake in grace” and “abound in God” and be “purified,” would not the Lord look to give you this partaking with Him and put some of His love in you and purify you?  Would He not want to help you to some understanding of the Mystery going on at Mass?

This is where we meet God.   In this desire.   THIS is that “disposition” we can bring!

Coming to the Mass is seeking to embrace the Cross of Christ and seeking the power of His resurrection to new life.

As Paul says to the Philippians further on in his letter, our Christian call is so much about presenting ourselves to God in Christ Jesus: “”At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father… Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling(Phil. 2:10-12).”

So, what should be the disposition be?  Paul saw that the Jesus-believing people of Philippi were to continue to work out their gift of salvation with great respect for the offer of God.  They were to be motivated not just by Paul but by the trembling spirit within them (saying: I’d better keep at it!) and be in obedience to God.   On Sundays in our parishes of the Church of Washington (and Saturday vigils) we have the Lord’s Day to keep (in obedience).  He’s always had a day of worship and a purpose to gather His followers and friends together in His Name.  This appointment is important to God.  (If it’s important to Him, then it should be to us, too.)

This Plan for friendship and meeting and communing with His people and setting up special appointments for it, goes all the way back to the Days of Creation.  We hardly realize it, but God did so delight in making us.  He fashioned male and female humankind so that we would be able to commune with Him.  From the Beginning, He delighted in surrounding us with all of the Created Order.  Then God rested on the Sabbath, calling it Holy.   In response, in history, The Lord God’s followers rested on the Sabbath.  Then the Lord Himself came to the world.   In Jesus Christ. In His saving of the world and its sinners, by His Cross, and by His being raised on “the first day of the week” (Matt. 28:1, John 20:1– “Sunday”),   He inaugurated a New Covenant Day.   Sunday was the Lord’s Day, by the account that Jesus was raised up on the first day, and then that a new day of salvation came by it (2 Cor. 6:2).   We were put into the possibility of a new existence in Jesus Christ, as if “an eighth day” or a “new day” were now added for us.   People on earth now had an opportunity to live in the Kingdom of God, even while still residents of the earth.  We could even speak (through Jesus in prayer) to the Father in Heaven, like we were citizens with Him there.   Indeed–a new day–a new life was possible.  Sunday became like that day when we could taste and see something of Eternity.

Celebrating the change that Jesus brought to the earth is what Catholics are doing at Sunday Mass.   A properly disposed person for Mass is one who comes to Mass with this spiritual view.  Paul said to the Church at Corinth:  “So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new (2 Cor.5:17).”

Getting back to the Creation theme, the Lord of Creation made for a new day in Christ Jesus.   In it, He gave us a new birth by water and His Spirit. Paul says in Ephesians (2:10) “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”     When we come to Mass, we present ourselves to Him, thankful for salvation, and ready for the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in.    We encounter Christ, and the dismissal from Mass is “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

With that attitude of coming to Mass, so to dispose ourselves into His Grace and Company, we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Ps.100)” and we come with the longing question to God  “How can I return to the Lord for all the good He had done for me(Ps. 118)?”

It mostly is a matter of humility and deep longing in finding the proper disposition for Mass.   This approach can then afford us to be ready to experience transformation from the Holy Mass.

Christ Jesus the Lord is there to be found.    It is SO much about being disposed for His grace-at-hand.   Jesus says “Come to me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”

We must put a lot of trust in these above truths that we can be disposed for transformation in the Lord God, through the Mass.   We can be refreshed by God who will meet us there, and who has invited us there.

Every participation with Christ Jesus in the Mass, and with one another, is meant to bear fruit that will last forever.   We are in the manner of being changed by God to be His own forever.  The Mass joins us into that heavenly reality on earth.

(Right?!?!)  (Can I get an Amen?!)             END OF PART TWO

 

Catholic Mass: Can we truly get what is going on? Part 1

Sacred Liturgy Image

Sometimes people say: I don’t “get anything” out of Mass.

On hearing that, I think to myself and pray, Lord–how can I help them to receive what is ‘truly going on to get?!’   How can I encourage them more to open up their channels to You and hear Your invitation to the Mass?–That it is a welcome to Your table!

Perhaps, what I can say most about the Mass in these several blogs is that it is something worth a lot of consideration and investigation in anyone.  I think Jesus would say: Look for the meaning of Mass like it is something that you cannot live without. (John 6:48-58)  ‘Like you lost your wallet and keys.  (No, maybe that can be replaced.)  Or, how about that you lost your water and your house will be out of it for 5 days (like some PG county folks did today), would you try to go without a water supply?

Now, we are not so keen on knowing how we are doing in our spiritual supply.   Understanding the Mass better is a spiritual search and endeavor.   When a person truly wants to know Jesus better as Bread of Life, I think our Lord is happy to oblige them.

I also would start out by saying that I think the Mass and its Eucharist (Holy Communion) is an invitation to join Jesus in an eternal participation, and by that action, one’s utter transformation of life is possible!  I think there is a lot more going on that eating a holy wafer, when it comes to Holy Communion.  We are invited to receive Eucharist many times in our life in the Catholic Faith, and I think it is very much worth all the interest to do so.   It offers on-going transformation to the reverent “communicant.”

“I don’t get anything out of Mass,” you say?

I think my first answer to that is—-don’t go away and give up just yet, my friend!  There is a lot to be found.  The Lord is here among us.  I would say:  Let’s see how you (and I) might recognize Him!

Last Sunday at Mass, the Gospel in Luke 10 included some verses about a Jewish scholar and when he had met a traveling rabbi going by.  The “rabbi” was Jesus, but the scholar had no clue who Jesus really was.  He calls him just by his reputed vocation as “teacher.”  He asks Jesus if He knows the answer to a basic question.  Jesus answers it for him.  The scholar says back to him: “You are correct.”  I smile at the start of this exchange because, if scholarly religious men back then were face-to-face with the Anointed Christ of God, and missed Who He was to the world, then I suppose we will miss His personal encounters with us, too.

And Jesus is coming in the disguise of the Sacrament at Mass today, just as he walked ‘under-cover’ as God as a Galilean carpenter-rabbi from Nazareth.  He is not noticable at first as the One deserving our respect!!

Yet He means to be found by us.  Especially in the Holy Mass.  Jesus’ Last Supper was just not a last meal for Him.   We Catholics believe He instituted the Eucharist (and Mass) as well as set up the persons to serve as His instruments of Priesthood (apostles-priests) and giving people Bread of Life as the center focus of the Assembly.  There was a lot of meaning and planning to that final Passover of The Lord.  The Church has thought so, anyway, for 2000 years.   Jesus has been giving Himself to His followers in this ‘under-cover’ way through the ages; and if we thought the multiplication of loaves for 5,000-10,000 people was a lot, think now!.  He gives Himself as Daily Bread in Masses all around the world now–constantly.  And, on Sunday, He makes it really a feast of His love for us.

Who will come and find Him at these feasts of His Church around the world?  Will we be a seeker that comes to a church (instead of a hillside or seaside in Israel two millennia ago) and takes strong interest in Him?  As Isaiah the prophet told to Israel:   “Seek the Lord, while He may be found, call to Him, while He is still near.”  Is.55:6

God does not want you to be bored or lost at Mass nor think that it’s the same ol’ same ol’ thing everytime. It’s HIS Mass in Christ Jesus–God wants everyone to “get it.”   So do we really want to enter into a worship experience that Jesus personally set up and gave to the world in His public ministry on earth?  Would we seek that deeply?

Let’s go back to where we began.   In the person’s sincere admission about NOT “getting” Mass, I did have a good thought about it.  I thought: Well, at least this person is recognizing their need TO REALLY EXPERIENCE SOMETHING AT MASS.   Now–if I could only help them to a place of discovery.

And another basic thing I’d hope to communicate to a person who could not yet “get” the Mass… is that noone really has fully comprehended all of what the Holy Mass is for humanity.  We are ALL on a learning curve, and the final and full realization of the meaning of Mass comes after our life on earth is over.  If they could know that we are all, then, in a growing process of trying to best participate in the Mass and fully meet Christ Jesus in it.  Jesus put this Encounter there for us that works only in the realm of faith and grace.  That makes it a super-natural kind of experience with a natural meeting point (as we call it Sacrament).  It is no easy matter of just figuring out, like how to boil an egg, fly a kite, or write an email on a computer.  Since it is in that faith and grace realm, then people just can experience only as much as what God will reveal or unveil to them, and what their minds and souls can grasp or discover.   The question on the receiver’s end is simply:  Are you truly open to receive it?

An incentive for me to be open to new ideas or practices or such, is to know a bit of what’s in it for me in The Big Picture.  To “get” the Mass, what would that be leading to?

Ahh!  This is THE WHAT of what makes it all worthwhile to search for what is the meaning and dynamics of The Mass.   Answer:  We would experience the connection with the kingdom of God-at-hand.  We would have a more personal and earth-to-heaven connection with God and Jesus Christ the Savior.  We would sense a closer relationship with God. We also would sense a spiritual family relationship in Jesus Christ that the Eucharist brings to its partakers. We also would have something/ Someone to live and die for— with a cost involved to our lives that would give us value to our Faith.   Loving the Lord in the Eucharist and Church will not be easy.  It will be counter-culture.  It will take humility before God.  Yet Heaven is on the line!

In being a practicing Catholic and communicant, we have a heavenly connection going on.  Humankind has always longed for this.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the teaching book of the Faith) it says in #1137 that images were given to the last apostle, St. John of “a throne…in heaven, with one seated on the throne”.. “the Lord God” and “the Lamb, standing as though it had been slain:”  Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same “one who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.” with “the river of the water of life…flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” …the symbol of the Holy Spirit….”

These images of the Divine are stirring.   If it is all true, then it must be wonderful.  It also shows us how real the birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is salvation to the human race. That Jesus has won a victory for humankind.  He sits on a throne but He is still active in His involvement with man, too.   He is working through history to bring us into union with Him.  St. John sees this Divine activity.   He puts it down in what today are some New Testament writings.

Would it matter greatly if all these images are true?   Are these experiences of Jesus Christ the Lord personal and loving acts made to us and for us?   Does the Catholic Church have a part today in communicating a living and saving Jesus for the world?

Jesus said things like “I will be with you always.”  “I do not leave you as orphans”   “Peace I give you, My Peace I offer you.”  “I am the Bread of Life, come down from Heaven”   “I am the Good Shepherd”  and “I am the Way.”  By the many things He said, it surely sound like Jesus had plans to continue as our Savior, even into “A.D.” history.   “Believe in God, believe also in Me,” said He.   About His words, He said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have life, in the world you might have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

In his visions, St. John saw a community in Heaven in worship around the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Throne of God.  He saw creatures, angels, people and holy splendor giving praise to God.   He longed so much to join in the praise.  But it was just a short vision.  Then St. John realized that the Spirit and the Church afforded a communion (common union) with this eternal liturgy, that people of the world could celebrate the mystery of salvation in the sacraments.   The Incarnation wonder (that God had become human) kept “open” the access to Heaven of the people of faith’s worship on earth, to add to the worship of God in Heaven.  The Church has sung out this fabulous communion as she sings “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord!  God of Hosts!  Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.  Hosanna in the Highest…”     (and that we have a way to share with Heaven in Jesus, we keep singing)  “Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the Highest!”

#1140-41 of the Catechism ties OUR part on earth in liturgy.  “It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates… The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that they may offer spiritual sacrifices…(through) CHRIST THE SOLE PRIEST, in which all his members participate.. ”

SO IT IS BY CHRIST JESUS THAT HEAVEN AND EARTH CAN BE ‘WEDDED’ IN LITURGY.

This was the point that the Bible author of Hebrews was making.  The Lord of Heaven and Earth is able to bond the two in Himself.  Jesus is the Bridge or Mediator for this to happen. Even the early Christians saw this:  “What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church of first-born sons, enrolled as citizens of heaven” (Heb. 12:22-23).

Today, Catholic Christians routinely make prayers of this connection that we have of heaven and earth.  In one of the documents of the Church, we almost matter-of-fact say that “In the earthly liturgy, by way of foretaste, we share in that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims.”   This was written in something called Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8.   One could also find this belief in Scripture in I Cor 15:28; or in the Catechism #1090 & 1326.

 blogs.
/The C