At some point or another, you have probably heard someone say, “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” This is common among some kids and a few adults. The first problem with this complaint is that, if someone looking to get “something” out of Mass, they have set their expectations too low. The Mass gives us not something but someOne—Jesus Christ. The second problem is this complaint demonstrates a certain passivity as if the Mass is supposed to entertain them like a movie or TV show. My question to a person who complains about “not getting anything” out of Mass is: “What did you put into Mass?” That is, did the person come to praise, thank, ask forgiveness from, and petition the Lord? Or did he or she just come to be amused?
For the past few Sundays, we have been hearing from the “Bread of Life Discourse” (Jn 6:22-59), and I have been preaching on Christ’s Real Presence in the Mass. The fact that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ—and not merely a symbol— changes everything. As your pastor, I want you to get the most out of Mass, that is, the most profound experience of Jesus Christ possible. The reform of the sacred liturgy of Vatican II aimed to encourage “full, conscious, and active participation” in the Mass (SC 14), and so I offer my “Top 10” ways to accomplish this end:
- Read the readings of Mass at least the night before so that the word of God can move you during the liturgy itself. USCCB Daily Readings <http://www.usccb.org/calendar
>. I also recommend subscribing to Magnificat <https://www. magnificat.net> or Word Among Us <https://wau.org> for reflections on the daily readings. Or, if you want the whole liturgical year (prayers and readings) in one volume, buy a Daily Roman Missal <http://www. theologicalforum.org/Browsing. aspx?BrowseBy=Category& CategoryId=112>.
- Dress for Mass in a way that demonstrates your belief in Jesus’ Real Presence. You might ask yourself: “Do I look like I am going to meet the King of Kings, or do I look like I’m going to the beach?”
- Do not eat anything (unless for health reasons) right before Mass. Gum should be spit out well before Mass (and not on the parking lot!).
- Arrive at the church on time for Mass. Jesus deserves our punctuality. If the Pope was going to be there, we wouldn’t be late. Jesus is more important than the Pope.
- In fact, arriving at least five minutes before Mass ensures a bit of time for silent recollection. We need time to silence ourselves from the noise of this world. This includes turning off your smart phone. Enough time for a rosary would be ideal preparation.
- Sing at least the common parts of the Mass. Even if you don’t know the hymns (or like them), the common parts (e.g., the Gloria; Holy, Holy) are integral to the sacred celebration. Making your responses during the Mass without mumbling or rushing them is helpful as well.
- Listen attentively to the readings and the preaching of the priest even when they are hard to understand. Don’t forget that God chooses to communicate His word to you in this way.
- If your mind is plagued with distractions during the Mass, think of a person or a personal grace you need and unite that intention to the prayers of the priest and your parts of the Mass. It will help you focus more on praying and less on worrying or daydreaming.
- Receive Holy Communion on the tongue or reverently on the hand. Do not snatch Jesus. Respond “Amen”—not “thank-you”—when you hear “The Body of Christ.” If you have committed mortal sin (including missing Sunday Mass without just cause), you need to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion. St. Paul tells us the consequences for not doing this (see 1 Cor 11:27-29).
- After Mass, before you go to socialize or fellowship, spend at least a brief moment in thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is the most personal moment we have with Jesus, so let’s not waste it.
Reflection by Fr. Nolan Lowry, STL, pastor of St. Edward’s Athens, Texas.