In this reflection on the importance of the Holy Eucharist in our lives, we focus on our preparation and thanksgiving for this great gift of love.
Attending Mass involves a lot of coordination and preparation. It doesn’t begin when we arrive at church, but a good amount of time beforehand. I can well imagine the hectic schedules of our families in getting themselves from one place to another, coordinating schedules and accommodating commitments. The first weekend priority of a Catholic family is getting to Mass. Everything else should revolve around this most important event. Everyone in the family should attend Mass, and it is best if they can attend together, however, this is not always possible. In coordinating your weekend schedules, please make every effort not to just “fit Mass in” as another place to be, but make sure it is the center of all that is being done that day. Take to heart the commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
It is precisely when we are trying to “fit Mass in” that we often find ourselves arriving late or even leaving early. Make every effort to arrive before Mass begins so that there is time for prayer, time to slow down and place yourselves in the presence of God. Arriving early allows you to worship peacefully, open to God’s grace and the gifts He wishes to bestow upon you and your family during the Mass. Those who serve in the well-ordering of our worship, namely lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers and ushers, should all arrive a good 15 minutes or more before Mass begins so as to be properly prepared and to help the celebrant be at peace, so he does not have to search out assistance before he begins the prayer of the Mass.
If we are on time, we are not a distraction to the prayers and attention of others as we attempt to find a place to sit during the Scripture readings. How often we begin Mass with a half-empty church that becomes filled up by the end of the homily. I have often been amazed at the relaxed pace of those in the parking lot who are already late but not making any attempt to get into the church as soon as possible. They appear not to be in a hurry at all! May I ask, to what other event or activity is it acceptable to arrive late? Are we late to the theater or the movies? Do we saunter in late to the basketball or soccer game? Please help me to understand why it is acceptable to be late for Mass?
Another curious phenomenon occurs before the end of Mass and is no less of a concern. There are many who begin their exodus after the Our Father. Some don’t stay for Holy Communion. Even if they are not able to receive, they can still make the Spiritual Communion, which has become so familiar to us by now. Then there are those who “eat and run,” not even taking the time to say thank you to our Lord for the gift of Himself they have just received in the Eucharist. Did you know that the blessing by the priest at the end of the Mass is a sacramental? The priestly blessing is a source of grace that helps us to carry out our mission in the world, namely, to bring Christ to others. Whatever excuse we have convinced ourselves is valid for leaving early needs to be re-examined. When at a friend’s home for dinner do we get up before dessert is served and just walk out? Do we leave before the end of a movie, sporting event or concert? Certainly not. All these things would be considered rude and disrespectful. Why isn’t it so for our God? Isn’t it amazing how He continues to pour out His blessings upon us in abundance, yet we continue to give Him only so much, so little in return? If any of this sounds familiar or hits the proverbial nerve, please take it to heart and consider how what we say and do reflect what we believe and influence how we pray and worship.
Instead of rushing out at the end of Mass after we have received our Lord in Holy Communion, let us make it a strong practice to spend some time in quiet prayer expressing how grateful we are for the gift we just received. From our earliest years we were taught to always say thank you to the person who kindly gave us something. No less is true when we think of the gratitude we owe our God for the great gift of Himself. We know that God hears our prayers all the time, but when we have just received Him, He is especially close. Our thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion is an important time for prayer that certainly could be enhanced.
From your heart, that place of love, express your gratitude and love for Him. Ask Him to increase your faith, to bless those whom you love, even to bless those whom you find difficult to love. Pray for those who need His special attention, those who have asked for a remembrance in your prayers, as well as those who are praying for you. Pray for your priests, that they may be holy and strengthened to carry out the work the Lord has entrusted to them. Pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need good, holy priests and good, holy religious men and women. There are so many intentions to pray for. Make your own list, carry it with you, and refer to it during your thanksgiving so that you don’t forget anyone or anything. Just as we respond kindly to those who are gracious and grateful to us, imagine how much more gracious our God will be toward those who take the time to say thank you for all of His blessings, especially for the gift of His Son, Jesus, in the Most Holy Eucharist.
The Mass is the greatest gift our Lord has given to His Church. Let us embrace this gift of love with deep reverence and respect. As we would with any gift, let us accept it with gratitude, honor the Giver by putting it to good use, and share its benefits with others, thereby giving good example by word and deed and, please God, growing in holiness.
Our next article will focus on our spiritual lives during this time of pandemic.