July 1, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Worship of God in the Holy Mass unites us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

In this life, there is no greater way to foster [an intimate] relationship to Christ and the Church than through the gift and mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist and the fruitful celebration of the Mass. (“Worship of God in the Holy Mass Unites Us,” #3)

In my pastoral letter, “Worship of God in the Holy Mass Unites Us,” published on Dec. 14, 2021, I observed that “the Eucharist is at the heart of our relationship with Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” We foster this intimate relationship with the Lord of Life through our frequent and fervent participation in the Mass.

All Catholics who are able to attend Sunday Mass have an obligation to do so. This is a serious responsibility that we are invited to accept freely as missionary disciples gathered around the eucharistic table of our Lord’s body and blood prior to being sent out “on mission.”

Indeed, participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass is an expression of our love and devotion, an act of profound adoration that is our solemn-but-joyful duty as sons and daughters of the Father, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem us from sin and death (Jn 3:16).

We too often think of an “obligation” as something forced on us, something uncomfortable or distasteful, a limitation on our freedom. But many obligations are freely chosen, even liberating, as when a woman and a man bind themselves to one another in marriage; or when a priest makes vows that bind him to a special relationship with Jesus Christ and, therefore, accepts the demands (and rewards!) of priestly ministry; or when parents and grandparents give themselves unhesitatingly to the obligation to sacrifice their own desires for the good of their children and grandchildren.

In my pastoral letter, I wrote:

Everything that we do as members of Christ’s body flows from and back to this our “source and summit” in the Eucharistic celebration. The effects of receiving Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament in our lives are many: including increasing our union with the Lord; forgiving our venial sins; preserving us from grave sins; reinforcing the unity of the Church as the mystical body of Christ; and enabling our Christian initiation. Finally, in our worship of God at Mass, we are called, equipped and sent to be missionary disciples into the world!

Catholics accept the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days because we love God and we want to be close to him. Love compels us to cast off our isolation and seek communion (intimate union) with the One we love. Because of love, we make sacrifices and do things that may seem uncomfortable or inconvenient. Because of love, we set aside our own desires in order to be united with Christ, and with the other members of his Church, in an act of adoration and worship that we make wholeheartedly and without reservation.

Nothing in these reflections should give the impression that faithful participation in the Mass is easy. We have to work at it. We must come prepared. We must listen attentively to God’s word. We must participate actively in the prayers and singing, not letting extraneous thoughts or worries distract us from the act of worship. And, of course, we must receive the body and blood of Christ in the state of grace, and we must open our minds and hearts to him, allowing him to dwell in us and empower us to do God’s will.

Truly, as I state in the letter, “there is no greater way to foster [an intimate] relationship to Christ and the Church than through the gift and mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist and the fruitful celebration of the Mass.”

It is a great tragedy that so many Catholics today have chosen to neglect their obligation to participate fully in the Mass on Sundays and holy days. Now more than ever, we all need the graces offered by this profound expression of God’s love, the Most Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s gift of himself to us. What a missed opportunity to find peace, forgiveness and hope through the Lord who has sacrificed everything for us!

The Eucharistic Revival that we initiated last month is intended to help reawaken our longing and appreciation for this divine gift, the holy Mass. The goal of this National Eucharistic Revival is “to renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist.“ To be successful, we must all open our hearts to the truth of Christ’s real presence among us in the Eucharist.

Please join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will enliven our hearts with the desire to worship God in the holy Mass! †

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