At a recent Mass I attended, they took a page out of the Superbowl playbook and gave a play-by-play explanation of the Mass. But I must admit that it was the first thing they said that got my brain pondering.
The Mass with commentary, as it was referenced, didn’t take much longer than a normal Mass, and consisted of a short, high-level overview of what was going to happen and why, followed by that portion of the Mass. The commentary was only inserted about five or six times, and gave a general explanation; no deep theology was presented, but enough to remind those who know and encourage those who don’t know to go deeper.
The commentary began before Mass started, introducing what was happening and explaining the first portion of the Mass. The first action for Mass begins before the Mass itself, what I would consider the gathering of the congregation. However, the way it was phrased was, “You’ve arrived.” I’m sure that choice of words was used purposefully, but it was these words that made me think. If they had used the same terminology of “gathering,” I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Using the phrasing that is common to those who use navigational aids to get them to their destination really caught my attention, and if I may admit, made me giggle.
Attending Mass should be our destination, the way we start off our week being nourished by the Word of God. Mass isn’t a checklist item of something we’ve accomplished, but a participation in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Arriving at a location indicates that we are present to what is happening and our focus is on the experience unfolding. The commentary was a great way to call attention to the different parts of the Mass and to be engaged with them, to be present and participatory and not to drift off into indifference just waiting for the end to come. I’ve seen and heard many jokes about how many times Catholics sit, stand, or kneel in one Mass, yet these position changes can help us pay attention and focus on our relationship with Jesus through the various parts.
The Mass is the closest we can get to heaven while on earth. We receive instruction from the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word. And the summit of it all is the Eurcharist: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus made present for us to receive in a simple, yet transformed, piece of unleavened bread. It is through the Eurcharist that we nourish our souls via this physical encounter with Jesus. Being replenished in this manner, we are then called to go forth into the world and share what we’ve received: the time, talent, love, and mercy of Jesus bestowed upon us.
It is important to be “here and now” when attending Mass. To do this, make every effort to be aware of each portion of the Mass and its importance in your relationship with God. The more we approach Mass as a weekly destination on earth, the more prepared we will be for our final destination: heaven.