Why Celebrating the Mass is Like Returning Home in 2020

The death of Kobe Bryant ushered in the new year. It shocked the world. Suddenly the coronarovirus circled the globed. Lockdowns and quarantines ensued. Our lives have been upended. You may have joked about this year being the beginning of an apocalypse— honestly, it feels Pandora’s box of evil was opened and there is no end in sight.

time traveler 2020 meme

Recreational outlets for stress such as sporting events, music concerts, and festivals have either been cancelled for postponed indefinitely.  Local libraries, zoo, and museums closed. How the heck are you supposed to live? I contracted COVID19 in April and those were among the most miserable weeks for my family. And if that wasn’t bad enough the Church suspended public Masses.

I understand why the bishops temporarily removed the Sunday obligation. Viewing the Mass via the Internet was a gift. It was a grace to hear my diocese’s newly ordained bishop preach (my family ordinarily don’t attend the Cathedral for Mass so we wouldn’t have heard Bishop DeGrood otherwise).

In May several dioceses across the United States started allowing public liturgies with safety precautions. I was recently graced with the ability to receive the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in months. It felt like a homecoming.

Home is Where the Sacred Heart is

Saint Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. ” This year was a journey in the wilderness (I mean that literally and figuratively). Lent ended on April 11th however my spiritual dryness and suffering continued well into the Easter Season. Streaming the Mass on TV felt like viewing an oasis far off in a desert. Some weeks it appeared real and other times as a mirage.

sacred heart of Jesus is our home

The tangibility of going to Mass physically reminds me of the Incarnation—  God becoming man. Without that direct connection of hearing and seeing the priest in person it remained a great Cross to bear.

Saint Pope Pius X said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.” This life is not our true home. It is a pilgrimage toward our destination.

Home is about love. The truest form of love is found in the heart of Jesus.

Community of Love

Another term for the Blessed Sacrament is Holy Communion. I love this name for the Eucharist. Under the section What is this Sacrament Called?  the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1331,  (It is called)  “Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” Love can only happen in the presence of another.

Jesus told his Apostles in Matthew 18:20,  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is the reality of the Church. People united together with each other through the power of God’s love.

Returning to Mass reminded me of this communion with God AND man. The priest stands in Personi Christ (the Person of Christ). While only a validly ordained priest, Eucharistic prayer, wheat bread, and grape wine are officially needed for the Sacrament to occur, it is a fuller sign of God’s love when the laity are present. Hearing the faithful sing the various hymns helped me to greater enter into the mystery of the Mass.

An Invisible (But Still Real Communion)

Mass is not boring

The community of the laity are a visible sign of communion. Yet, there is an invisible assembly present in the Mass— the angelic hosts and communion of saints. I felt closer to the holy ones during the Eucharist than when I was watching it in my own home on the television.  Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:29 hit home last Sunday, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” This world is not our true home. A world beyond the senses exist.

According to the Catechism, “The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints (CCC 1352). St. Augustine echoes this truth,  “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” Understanding this reality helped deepen my appreciate for the Mass. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Ask God to Give You Strength

God won't leave you

This year continues to send us new and unimaginable trials. Our hearts ache for love. The inability to receive the Eucharist made those challenges exponentially tougher. Some of you may still be in “exile” and wondering how long you have to wander aimlessly in the desert of 2020. God never totally abandons us even though it feels like it sometimes. Read the Bible daily or the writings of saints for comfort. Praying the Rosary or chaplet of Divine Mercy help ward off distress. I offer my sufferings to God in hopes that you may receive spiritual consolation to soothe you during your trials!

Related Links

10 Things You Should Do Until Public Masses Return

Why Priestly Ordinations Give Me Hope in an Age of Pandemic

7 Reasons to Go to Eucharistic Adoration


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Why the Eucharist is Most Wonderful Gift to Receive

By: William Hemsworth

On June 23 we celebrated Corpus Christi Sunday, and what a great day it was.  Though we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist everyday at Mass, there is a tendency to get complacent.  This seems to be our human nature, because if we do something enough we tend to go through the motions.

Eucharist

On this day the church asks us to take a step back and take a moment to remember what an awesome gift the Eucharist is.  In honor of this, I also want to take a step back to look at what scripture and the early church tells us about the blessed sacrament.

Though some terms for the Eucharist developed over time, the belief of what the Eucharist is has been around since New Testament times.  Jesus gave a speech that we call the Bread of Life Discourse in which he says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood that we have no life within us (John 6:53).  The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the words of institution that we hear so often (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39).

In Summary of these Jesus tells us to eat the bread and says “This is my body”.  Then he took the cup of wine and “This is the cup of my blood that was given for you”.  Notice how our Lord says “this is” and not that it is merely a symbolic action?

Catholic Eucharist meme

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one that held true in the doctrine of the early church.  The big heresy going around in the first couple centuries of the church was Gnosticism.  The Gnostics believes that all matter was evil, and as such Jesus himself didn’t actually die on the cross.  Since all matter was deemed evil by the Gnostics, the Eucharist was something that was unfathomable?  After all, if matter were evil, then there was no way that the bread and wine can transform into the body and blood of Christ.

Heresy gif

The early church fathers understood the gnostic line of thinking and used the Eucharist as a way to refute them.  In approximately 107 A.D. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letter to the Smyrneans, “They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again”.

Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., states that the bread and wine changes to the body and blood of Christ upon the prayer of the priest.  In his great work titled Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes “the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist.”

There are many other such quotes like this span for several centuries.  One such quote comes from St. John Chrystostom who died in 407 A.D.  Describing the Eucharist the great saint states, “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”

Eucharist

These quotes go on and on, and through them we see that the teaching of the church from the beginning is that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.  At this point you are probably wondering why I am quoting all these great saints.  Friends, my heart hurts.  For every one person that enters the Catholic church, there are six people who leave.  Why would they leave such a great gift such as the Eucharist?  When I ask those that leave, their answers range from the sexual abuse scandal to a disagreement with a priest.  However, a majority that I have spoken to leave because they do not believe what the church teaches about the Eucharist.  Some didn’t even know the church’s teaching.

Perhaps we have taken this great sacrament for granted and our actions no longer show the reverence it deserves.  Perhaps some have just been poorly catechized. Maybe it is both.  I urge you my friends to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that is the Eucharist.  The very gift of himself that our Lord gives us to nourish and strengthen us.  May we never take it for granted and show it the reverence it deserves.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

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