Mass Must Transform Us

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Can you think of an event that changed your life? Sometimes we use that phrase a bit too casually. We might say, “That new coffee maker has changed my life!” Or: “Have you seen the movie yet? It changed my life!” Of course most of these kinds of things or experiences don’t REALLY change our lives in the truest sense. Yet each of us can probably recall something or someone that did change the way we live. Teachers, coaches, pastors, or friends can open our eyes in new and dramatic ways. When we fall in love and marry our spouse, we’re forever changed. The birth of a child is transformative. Many of us have had a conversion experience which has opened our hearts to a new life through Jesus Christ. This is an ongoing journey that calls us out of our former lives in a radical way.

Last week Pope Francis said that every time we go to Mass our lives should be changed. Going to Church on Sunday isn’t just a good habit or a time to come together with our friends. It’s not enough if all we come away with is a “good feeling” of having celebrated our faith in God. We may have attended a beautiful liturgy with great music, a talented choir and an inspiring homily. We may have been moved by the readings from Scripture and been inspired by the hour we spent with our faith family—but if Mass isn’t life-changing, you might as well stay at home. Remember that Catholics are guilty of a grave sin if we choose not to go to Mass on Sunday. So the Pope’s comments got my attention. He says that Mass must deeply change us and moreover must change the way we live our lives. This change is not just a one-time “I got saved!” experience, but every time we worship.

To begin with, each Mass starts with us gathering together and admitting our sinfulness and begging God for His mercy and forgiveness. These are not just pretty words meant to make us feel humble (in a proud way) but are a real encounter with the Lord. Our repentance is a decision and a commitment—not just a warm, fuzzy feeling in which we “forgive ourselves.” Realizing our sinfulness and asking God’s forgiveness prepares our hearts for the grace of the Eucharist. And it is in Holy Communion that we truly encounter the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Eucharist is not a mere symbol or faithful remembrance of that long-ago Last Supper. It’s not a human invention. It’s not a Catholic “tradition”. The Eucharist isn’t an “it” at all: the Eucharist is Jesus. And this is how Mass changes our lives. The Eucharist is an encounter with Christ and if that meeting doesn’t transform us, then Pope Francis is right: we should just stay home.

You see, we don’t encounter Christ in a vacuum. Our salvation experience is in the context of a community. We worship with others. Our communion makes us one with them. God’s forgiveness of our sins calls us to forgive others. And the Eucharist, because of Who the Eucharist is, allows us the grace we need to serve others. This service begins when we SEE the person in the pew next to us. We see them as our brothers and sisters, with their own unique faults and gifts, their own wounds and blessings. The Eucharist calls us to do more than exchange a polite Sign of Peace, but to enter into their lives through the love of Jesus. As Pope Francis said, “Does it nourish in me the ability to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? Does it urge me to reach out to the poor, the sick, the marginalized? Does it help me recognize in them the face of Jesus?”

If there’s a “takeaway” from the Pope’s address, I think that’s it. The Eucharist is Jesus giving Himself to us so that we can give ourselves away in the service of others. If we fail to do that, we’ve failed to live out our mission as Christians. We’re called to be like nets, sent out to catch souls for Christ, to feed and clothe and comfort our brothers and sisters. He never promised us it would be easy, but in the Eucharist He keeps His promise to remain with us always (John 6:56). And He gives us Himself as the Food for our journey.

We should live the Eucharist in a spirit of faith and prayer, forgiveness, repentance, community, joy, concern for the needy and for the needs of so many brothers and sisters, in the certainty that the Lord will accomplish what He has promised: eternal life.”
—Pope Francis

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Adoration Rocks (@AdorationRocks)
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 01:04:47

    Good article, Judy. Pope Francis’ words (and yours!) mirror Mother Teresa’s when she said, “But, unless we have Jesus, we cannot give Him; that is why we need the Eucharist.” http://adorationrocks.com/letter.html

    Reply

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