St John's Q&A

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Is Mass real?

I always enjoy talking with Catholic youth groups about the Mass. I might start out asking them for their honest reactions to attending Mass. Most common are "Mass is so boring"..."it is the same thing every time"..."it is so long"..."I can't relate to it at all". Or, I might ask them how much time they spend watching TV or movies each week. The typical teenage group will admit to spending at least 10 hours there (although it's probably much more than that). I will ask them if TV or movies are real, for the most part. "No". Then, I ask them how much time they spend with God every week. "One hour...at Mass". 'So... is Mass real??'.

If they are like me when I was growing up, they are thinking that the Mass isn't real. They are thinking, like so many adult Catholics, that the Eucharist isn't real... it's just a symbol... it only represents the Body of Christ. So, I will say what a priest said to me when I was 21 that changed my life: "'this is my body' means 'this is my body'". When I first heard this, I couldn't believe it; I had never stopped to consider the words that were 'the same every time'.

I started going to daily Mass to listen to the words the priest said. Next thing I knew, I was picturing Jesus on the Cross...for me. "This is the cup of my blood... It will be shed for you and for all so that sins might be forgiven." Because my sins at the time were especially great, it hit me very hard. Jesus died for me. For my sins. So that I can go to Heaven. God became very real to me in the Mass.

Like all of us who are present at Mass, I became a witness to Mount Calvary every day at 12:00. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross. The same flesh and blood that were on the Cross become truly present on the altar. Jesus tells us this is true when he says, "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world... My flesh is true food. My blood is true drink" (John 6: 51, 55).

So, my final question to the kids is: 'where does the Eucharist go during Holy Communion?' "In us". Yes, if we are ready (i.e., a Catholic or Orthodox in a state of Grace) to receive Him. Jesus comes inside of us in Holy Communion! We are one with God. Can any movie do that? Jesus says that in the Eucharist, we have Heaven dwelling within us. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (John 6:54). No TV show can compete with that. The Mass is Heaven on Earth. The most incredible event in the world. Amazing! Awesome! Anything but boring.

2 Comments:

  • I still think when Jesus said, "Do this in memory of me." , he was referring to giving of one's self. He said to take his blood and his body and to remember that he gave this for us. I see it simply as him reinterating that we should all give of ourselves in rememberance and to live "In Christ".

    By Blogger reginahopeparks, at 10:49 AM  

  • Yes, giving of one's self is one of the central themes of Jesus' Gospel. But, "do this in memory of me" is specific to the Eucharist. Just before this command, Jesus says to the Apostles, "take this all of you and eat ...and drink", referring to his Body and Blood. So, taking, eating, and drinking his flesh and blood is how we "do this in memory of me".

    For 2000 years, we Christians have believed that the Eucharist is a living memorial of Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. "In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but...they become in a certain way present and real" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1363).

    Jesus himself makes it clear that his flesh and blood that were on the Cross is truly present in the Eucharist: "the bread that I will give is my life for the life of the world...my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink" (John 6:51,55). The early Christians believed it and centered their life on it (Acts 2:42,46).

    For 2000 years, the Real; Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has been at the center of the Church's life. The Eucharist is the best way for us to give our selves daily to God and neighbor. Mother Teresa once said that it was only because she went to Mass each morning and received Jesus in the Eucharist that she was able to go out and care for the poorest of the poor.

    "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person" (John 6:56).

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 1:58 PM  

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