Going to Mass
The Law of the Church on Sunday Mass is a reminder for those who tend to become careless. It is made for those who seem to forget that we owe God the minimum of public attention, this single hour out of the 168 hours of our week - about half of 1 percent of our time. Above all, the law is made for those who do not know (or do not remember) the real meaning of the Mass.
A Catholic who really understands the Mass will not say, "I have to go to Mass on Sunday", rather, he will marvel at the tremendous privilege that is his. And if he is really smart, he will arrange to take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice even oftener. Maybe, it is worthwhile to find out what the Mass really is instead of blindly following - or complaining about - some law.
Somewhere along the evolutionary line, we cut "the sacrifice of the Mass" down to "the Mass." And in doing so we eliminated the one word that could have kept reminding us what the Mass is. Maybe we would have done better to eliminate the word "Mass" and keep the word "Sacrifice." Maybe then, too, we would not be tempted to condemn any external ritual change, or to automatically accept any change simply for the sake of change. If we eliminate the word "Sacrifice" from our thinking about the Mass, then we are disregarding an essential element of the Mass.
We know that word "sacrifice." Want to or not, we practice it, perhaps frequently. And when it comes to the kind of sacrifice we do more or less voluntarily, we do it mostly out of love. So if the only one a person really loves is himself, the only sacrifices he will ever make will be for that one and only super-lovable person, himself. But if we know anything about real love, we will realize that love starts - and ends - with God. The real person will think about offering sacrifice to God first.
We are all familiar with that brand of sacrifice too. Even the pagans, afraid of most of the gods they dreamed up, were careful to offer sacrifices to try to keep them happy. They would burn a little wheat or pour out some wine on the ground, or maybe just kill someone. Why? Because they did not want their gods to be angry with them. Old Testament people also offered sacrifices - to show God they believed in him and needed his help. They were willing to part with something valuable to prove it.
Sacrifice is so necessary an element of love that any human being who is in love will find himself looking for ways to show his love by sacrifice. In Mexico, for example, people make their painful way on their knees over stone pavement to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. To many tourists this is incomprehensible; but once they come to know this people's love for God's Mother, they understand. The people of Mexico show their love for the God whom they cannot as yet see in a way that he no doubt sees.
On the very eve of the Calvary Sacrifice, Jesus celebrated the traditional paschal meal with his Apostles. For the most part, they observed the regular Jewish ritual, but at one stage Christ made a sudden, drastic and dramatic departure from ceremony. He took the bread and said: "Take this, all of you, and eat it: This is my body, which will be given up for you." Then, taking a cup of wine, he said: "Take this, all of you, and drink from it: This is the cup of my blood.....it will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me." With these words he thereby anticipated his later sacrificial death on the Cross.
Stand back and look at what we call "the sacramental system" in the Catholic Church, and you may notice that each of these sacraments perpetuates Christ among us in some unique way or other. This makes sense, since he became incarnate for all men and not just for some tiny segment of the human race. His historical life on earth was only the beginning of his presence on earth, a presence which could not be terminated by his death on Calvary. We have probably all told ourselves at one time or another, the we would have been much greater Christians had we lived at the historical time of Christ and been able to see him face to face. We would never have crucified him, we think to ourselves. But the fact is that we did crucify him.
Besides we do live with Christ in the present time. We experience his kindness and forgiveness, for example in the Sacrament of Penance, and in the Eucharist we encounter Christ Himself in a special way that only God could have devised. And if we really want to be present at the sacrifice of Calvary, all we need to do is to go to Mass.
Excerpt from: Father Joseph T. McGloin.