“I don’t get anything from going to Mass.”
Have you ever had anyone say this to you? Maybe your own family members, friends or children? In moments when you were feeling easily distracted or bored, have you ever wondered to yourself why you go to Mass?
What do we get from going to Mass?
The simple answer is - Jesus. At every Mass, we encounter the Risen Jesus alive and in our midst. We encounter Jesus in one another. He promised that where two or three are gathered, He would be in their midst. We encounter Him in the Scriptures which are proclaimed. Because they are the word of God, when the Bible is read at Mass it is God Himself speaking to His people. Finally, we encounter Jesus in His Body and Blood. As we are told in today’s gospel, the Eucharist is the bread that comes down from heaven to nourish us and give us eternal life.
Quite simply, if we love Jesus, we will love going to Mass. If Jesus is at the center of our life, then going to Mass will be the most important event of our week. There will be nothing else that will take precedence over it. If we call Jesus “Lord” and claim Him as our personal Savior, then we will strive to keep this appointment with Him every week.
The reality, however, is that as human beings we are easily distracted and bored. We come to church with many problems on our minds. We are often tired after a long week or are already thinking ahead to what will be waiting for us at work or at school on Monday. Instead of being focused on Jesus, we are thinking about all the errands we need to run when Mass is over. The same is true for all of us and God understands. However, at the same time, we must make an effort to put those worries and cares aside to focus on the graces that Jesus wants to offer us at Mass. Whatever we are worried about right now will come and go, but our life with Jesus in heaven will last forever.
If we had an important meeting at work or a test at school, we would make sure we prepared all week to be ready. In the same way, if we are going to make our relationship with Jesus a priority and put Him at the center of our lives, then we have to make sure we prepare all week for our encounter with Him on Sunday.
How can we do that? The first way is by taking time during the week to go over the Sunday readings. For most of us, the first time we hear the Sunday readings is when we come to Mass. Some people may take time to go over them in the Missalette before Mass starts but otherwise we come to church with no idea what the readings will be. What if we made the effort to read and pray over them during the week? What if we took ten minutes every day meditating on the word of God, asking ourselves what they mean for our lives and studying them? Then, we when come to Mass on Sunday, we will pay closer attention to the word as it is being proclaimed. We will be reminded of how we felt when we read them during the week, of the insights we received and how it challenged us to change our behavior and attitudes. We will pay more attention to the homily so that we can get even more insight into what we have read. Then, after we have left Mass, we will be more careful to put what we have heard into practice. Imagine the difference it would make in our lives if we were to allow God to mold our hearts every week by reading over and meditating on the Sunday readings.
The second way is by taking a few minutes every day to think about receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Meditating on what a great gift God gives us in the Body and Blood of His Son helps us to treasure this marvelous encounter we have with the Risen Lord every Sunday. Reflecting on His love and the gift of eternal life will make us even more eager to receive Holy Communion. When the priest says the words, “This is my Body which will be given up for you” and “This is the blood of the new covenant”, we will be focused in on Jesus truly present among us. When we approach to receive Holy Communion and the minister says, “The Body of Christ”, our “Amen” will have so much more meaning because we have been reflecting on this great gift all week long.
Finally, the best way to “get something” out of Mass is to put the graces we receive in Holy Communion to use throughout the week. Jesus gives us His Body and Blood to nourish and strengthen us to live as His disciples. We should be drawing on that nourishment and strength every day. When we face temptations, all we need to do is remember that Jesus is living within us through the mystery of the Eucharist and we will find the strength not to offend Him. When we are overwhelmed with the cares of life and don’t know what to do next, we can remember that Jesus lives within us and draw strength from Him to keep striving. By being more mindful throughout the week of the presence of Christ within us through the mystery of the Eucharist, the blessings and graces we receive at Mass will carry us through our whole week.
Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” That is exactly what we get when we come to Mass. Jesus gives us His very self so that we can have eternal life. If we are to receive and make use of this awesome gift, then we have to give something ourselves. We have to give our time throughout the week to reflect on the Scriptures that will be proclaimed and on the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We also have to give our lives over to Him, to allow Him to be Lord and look only to Him to save us. Then this weekly appointment with the Risen Lord will begin to change us and nothing will be able to keep us from going to church to meet Him.