December 1, 2017


Mass is not a show, but a beautiful, transformative encounter with Jesus

Pope Francis has taken notice of how some of us Catholic Christians behave during Mass.

And if his recent comments are any indication, we would do well to slow down, center ourselves in those times and always remember that taking part in a liturgy and receiving the Eucharist are, as the bishops at the Second Vatican Council taught, “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

In his recent Wednesday general audience talks at the Vatican on the liturgy, Pope Francis has reflected on what the Mass really is and why it is so important.

But in the process, he has also let our family of faith know in no uncertain terms that some of us fail to focus our hearts on God during this time.

“This is Mass: to enter into Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and ascension,” the pope said on Nov. 22 during his weekly general audience. “When we go to Mass, it is as if we were going to Calvary; it’s the same.”

If we realize that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and is letting himself be broken, and his love and mercy poured out for everyone, “would we allow ourselves to chitchat, take pictures, to be on show? No,” the pope said.

“For sure, we would be silent, in mourning and also in joy for being saved,” he added.

The Mass is not a show, but a beautiful, transformative encounter with the true loving presence of Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said during an audience on Nov. 8.

Massgoers with smartphones should keep them stowed away so as not to interfere with the sacredness of the liturgy, the Holy Father said.

When the priest celebrating Mass says, “Let us lift up our hearts,” he is not saying, “Lift up our cellphones and take a picture. No. It’s an awful thing” to do, the pope added.

Unfortunately, in our world of instant access to state-of-the-art technology, photographs are becoming a norm with nearly every life experience for some people—the liturgy included.

“It makes me so sad when I celebrate [Mass] in the square or in the basilica and I see so many cellphones in the air,” the pope said. “And not just by the lay faithful, some priests and bishops, too.”

But our Holy Father also reminds us, the Mass, as a “memorial,” is more than just remembering an event from the past. It makes that event present and alive in a way that transforms those who participate in it. If we’re being honest with ourselves, not even a photograph can duplicate that.

Our faith teaches us that the Eucharist is the focal point of God’s saving act, Jesus making himself present in the bread, “broken for us, pouring out all of his mercy and love on us like he did on the cross, in that way, renewing our hearts, our lives and the way we relate to him and our brothers and sisters,” the pope said.

“Every celebration of the Eucharist is a beam of that sun that never sets, which is the risen Jesus Christ,” he added. “To take part in Mass, especially on Sundays, means entering into the victory of the resurrection, being illuminated by his light, warmed by his heat. “Mass,” he continued, is “the triumph of Jesus.”

And in that triumph, as Jesus goes from death to eternal life during the liturgical celebration, he also seeks to “carry us with him” toward eternal life, Pope Francis said.

As Catholic Christians, we understand that eternal life is what we yearn for as we live out our call as missionary disciples.

But if we are truly to grow closer to God, as the pope noted, then we must understand the true value and significance of the liturgy, and not get distracted by earthly things.

The Holy Father reminded us of this when he said in his Nov. 15 audience that taking part in any Eucharist, but especially on Sundays, is “prayer par excellance, the highest, the most sublime and, at the same time, most ‘concrete.’

“In fact, it’s the encounter of love with God through his Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s an encounter with the Lord.”

—Mike Krokos

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