by Michael Podrebarac
Keeping our focus has been indispensable in negotiating and surviving this pandemic. Even with news of vaccines on the way, by most estimates we’ve still got a ways to go.
And keeping a solid focus is key to enduring, just as keeping our focus on the essentials of our faith is necessary to finishing the race, as St. Paul put it. He knew the focus God intends for each of us: life eternal in Jesus Christ.
And the church herself presents us the opportunity each day to renew that singular focus through the celebration of the holy Eucharist. As I mentioned in my last column, there are four chief ends to the Mass, all other things being subordinate to these: adoration, atonement, thanksgiving and petition.
These are the lenses through which we are called to focus and refocus our entire Christian life.
Adoration, because what Jesus did more than anything else was to give glory to his Father. In Christ, we, too, are given the mission of giving glory to God our Father by cooperation with the Holy Spirit. In the Mass, the Holy Spirit prepares us to receive the mysteries of salvation, recalls those mysteries and makes them present — that we may adore the living God.
Atonement, because what Jesus did on the cross was to offer himself to his Father in order to redeem us sinners, that we might die to sin.
At Mass, we are grounded in our belief that Christ has overcome sin and death for us, and we are called to offer his cross of atonement for the forgiveness of sins — for our own sins, lovingly for our neighbor’s sins and even the sins of the world.
Thanksgiving, because even during the time of his suffering before receiving his cross, he often began, “Father, I thank you.”
We perhaps already know that the word “Eucharist” itself means “to give thanks.” For our creation, our salvation and all the blessings of our lives, we give thanks to the Lord our God, the source of every blessing.
Petition, because Jesus prayed for his disciples while on earth and intercedes for us even now at the right hand of the Father. “As I have done for you, so you must do for one another,” Jesus said after washing his disciples’ feet. We must imitate him — not only in our actions, but by our prayerful affection for one another. And we enjoy the privilege of asking the Father for whatever we need — and he hears and answers us according to his perfect will.
Not one of us can credibly deny that we have not been blessed by our heavenly Father. The Mass is for us the privileged place to offer all our petitions and to trust in God’s love and mercy.
The Mass has a particular, four-fold focus. The church endeavors that we do everything possible to keep this focus above every other consideration.
We will consider, next time, ways we might sometimes lose that focus.