Mother’s Day is a day dedicated to Moms everywhere. Can you imagine if you ended up at Chuck E. Cheese eating cardboard pizza? This idea would be welcomed by young children (particularly mine), however for one day a year it is not about them. As Catholics, we are so fortunate to have the Mass. It saddens me though when I hear people say that they don’t “get anything out of it.” The celebration of Mass isn’t about GETTING, it is about GIVING. The more we give, the more we get.
The focus of Sunday Mass is to WORSHIP God, in the way HE WANTS. And we know this is the way He wants because JESUS SHOWED US HOW, ie the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist- the source and summit of our faith. As much as we’d like to be entertained and taught, catechesis is not the primary focus of the Mass. I believe God designed the Mass, specifically the Eucharist, for intimacy with Him. And it is that same deep intimacy that Moms cherish with our children on Mother’s Day.
Intimacy [in-tuh-muh-see] noun
“a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving
personal relationship with another person or group.”
The Catholic Church is not the only church that has the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. But what we have that Protestant churches don’t is the physical presence of God as well. (If you don’t believe me just type Eucharistic Miracles into YouTube or you can read a book on them the old fashioned way. Mind blowing!). When we go to Mass we go to the house of the Lord to spend time with Jesus. We go to offer Him ourselves as a gift, but honestly the only gift that is worthy of God is God. So as He instructed us, through the priest, we actually unite the small sacrifices we bring to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The priest re-presents Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist to God and invites us as Christ did to take and eat and drink. And as we consume Him, He consumes our hearts with his love. A love that is so strong, once upon a time, he chose a cross so that that love could last forever.
We worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, because we give praise and glory to God first. Just like we tithe based on our income before taxes, because we give to God first and then to the State. Sunday is the one day of the week it is not about us, it is about God and what He wants. What does He want? And don’t say He wants you to be happy giving you license to do a s you please. Your mom wants your happiness, of course, but that is a poor excuse to do what you want on Mother’s Day. He wants us to come to His house and physically spend time with him and build a relationship. Catholics also believe He will us to also build community. He loves it when we bring sacrifices, He doesn’t need them. Like St. Therese of the Little Way demonstrated, the small things we do for Him are like bringing Him flowers. And He is a God that will not be outdone in generosity. What do I mean by bringing sacrifices? Fasting before Mass would be a prime example. One hour is a bare minimum, you could fast all morning, especially before 11 am Mass (we are not a morning family). Sometimes just making it to Mass is a sacrifice. Living in Idaho, a state rich with natural beauty, summer Mass attendance tends to drop off. Is getting to Mass inconvenient? GREAT, the bigger the sacrifice to get there the bigger the gift you present to God. Do you find Mass boring? Is it difficult, because you struggle to connect with the homilies of a particular priest? SCORE a bigger sacrifice bears more spiritual fruit. And ideally this spiritual fruit will eventually reveal to you the beauty and power of the Mass so that you will no longer find it boring!
I was raised in the Catholic culture of never skipping Sunday Mass. If we were out of town or out of state, not going was not an option. Can you imagine if God took a vacation from us?! One hour a week is a bare minimum. Do you think you could maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse if you only got to be physically present together 1 hour a week? What if you missed two weeks or more? It would not take long before your relationship deteriorated and you would question if the intimacy you once had was even real.
Through the sacraments we are able to touch God and God is able to touch us. And although the purpose of the Mass isn’t to be entertained, inspired, or educated, many times that happens. I find that Mass fills me up, and without it I know I would be running on fumes. Don’t settle for the cardboard pizza when God has a standing reservation for you at the banquet.
Fr. Robert Barron in a reflection about the movie Arrival, said that the Bible is the words of God translated into the language of men. His implication is that words have their limits when it comes to communicating the divine (Word made Flesh). I think it is like seeing things in only two-dimensions.
“However, with the help of the Church, grace through the sacraments and the Mass we can learn to see in 3D and things really start to pop UP.” ~Regular Joan
Experiencing God is 4D and so it takes all those things and the Holy Spirit to get beyond the point of only seeing in 2D. Just like with human eyes some people naturally have better depth perception than others! At times, more often than I like to admit, I know that I am only seeing the Mass in 2D, I feel myself going through the motions and have to force my eyes to refocus and stay focused. And even then I don’t really see or feel God, but because I know despite my perception the reality is Jesus is with us. The people who leave the Church leave because it always looked flat and felt flat. God reveals Himself, but we must seek; He laid down a banquet when He laid down His life, but we have to sit at the table and feed ourselves.
Wait a minute, if the purpose of Mass isn’t to be taught the faith (catechesis), how do we gain the understanding to achieve “depth perception?” Don’t we all want to experience the Mass in its fullest glory? There is no one right answer, but an important lesson we should all learn is that it takes more than 1 hour of Mass a week to flourish. This is my plug for Catholic Radio. You could and should read books- there are a lot of great books; The Bible and the Catechism are at the top of most any list. Others would include The Lamb’s Supper:The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn, and The Mass: A Biblical Walk Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy by Edward Sri. The problem is you can’t drive and read, you can’t wash dishes, fold laundry, or exercise and read. Well, I can’t at least, my friend Kathy might be able to, but you CAN do all those things and listen to Catholic Radio! Going to Mass is essential, but it is not enough. If you can make time to fit in all the spiritual reading you want you should. If you’ve had a copy of The Confessions of St. Augustine sitting on your bookshelf for 3 years and are juggling and struggling with, in a word-life- stop beating yourself up and tune in to [insert your local Catholic Radio Affiliate] Salt and Light Radio 102.3 FM or 1140 AM Boise. For me it has been a near effortless way to grow deeper in my understanding of the faith.
When life-or-death hard times hit our family a few years ago having a strong personal relationship with Jesus and his Church was a treasure beyond price. Christianity isn’t a nice philosophy or a set of morals it is a physical and spiritual bond between a living God and His children. Your mother knows you love her, but be sure at least one day of the year to show her. Adore her, tell her you’re sorry for “those times” growing up, and thank her in a way you know she would like. And may this outpouring of love for your mother illustrate how we must also offer to God our adoration, contrition, and thanksgiving in a way He appreciates by participating in the “greatest prayer” the celebration of the Mass.
PS. If you do feel Mass is a bit dry or 2D, here is a short article by Jeff Cavins that should wet your tongue and make it pop! http://rediscover.archspm.org/rediscover_news/greatest-prayer-church/