by Michael Podrebarac
If we wish to benefit as much as possible from our participation in the Mass, we’ve got to maintain, as I said last time, our focus.
I don’t mean some hyper-focus that isn’t reasonable and, if attempted, would probably just give us a headache.
Rather, I mean a fundamental focus that draws us to: 1) simply remember that we are engaged in divine worship, and not just a merely human activity; 2) humbly recognize that it is Christ who is at work in the liturgy, we having received the privilege to participate therein according to the church’s liturgy; and 3) prayerfully join ourselves to Christ in offering thanks and praise to God the Father, through the communion of the Holy Spirit.
This kind of sensible focus will help preserve us from the many distractions that can at times leave us wondering if the Mass really makes any difference in our lives.
Far too many folks have already come to that most unfortunate conclusion, and we can only hope to encourage them to return, inasmuch as we have secured our own meaningful aspirations and intentions.
Indeed, many things distract us from receiving those unparalleled fruits of the Mass, which are ours to enjoy through Jesus Christ and his church. And the most debilitating distractions of ours often involve the matter of our emotions.
Emotions can be tricky things, as we all well know. Necessary to the human person, they generally fall into two categories, between which there is quite a difference: those more governed by reason and those less governed by reason. It’s the latter kind that can tempt us in all sorts of ways, such as:
• our going to Mass only when we feel like it, or our missing Mass when there’s something else we’d planned on doing
• our expecting the liturgical celebration to satisfy our personal tastes
• our desire to be provided at Mass with a sense of self-affirmation
• our insistence that Mass must regularly be “uplifting” and “engaging”
• our willingness to choose another parish when we don’t get our own way
• our preoccupation with everything that’s “wrong” at Mass
• our looking for the celebration of Mass to entertain us
• our wanting to always “get” something out of Mass (or Mass failed us)
• our thinking that Mass begins and ends with how we feel about it.
Rare are those who are entirely immune to these temptations; let us not be too hard on ourselves.
But let us remember, and firmly confess, that what Jesus did purely out of love when he was on earth is at the heart of what the Mass is all about.
That the church has preserved a cultural expression that transcends passing tastes.
That we’ve been gifted with an order of Mass to our mutual benefit.
That we must remain committed to one another in the Holy Spirit, and build each other up.
And that, while Mass can surely be a joyful experience, a merely emotional experience will never satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.