Browsing The Seed

Entering the Mystery of Mass

Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not knowIf we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass…The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” – Padre Pio

“The Church has always protected as its most precious treasure the command of the Lord, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ From the very beginning, the Church was aware that this was not a question of a representation, however, sacred it be, of the Supper of the Lord. It would have made no sense, and no one would have been able to think of ‘staging’ — especially before the eyes of Mary, the Mother of the Lord — that highest moment of the life of the Master. From the very beginning the Church had grasped, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, that that which was visible in Jesus, that which could be seen with the eyes and touched with the hands, his words and his gestures, the concreteness of the incarnate Word — everything of Him had passed into the celebration of the sacraments” – Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter Desidereo Desideravi

Whenever we attend the Mass, we are being confronted with the reality – and the cost – of our salvation: Christ, offering His body on the cross, to save us and make us holy. I love that phrase from our Holy Father, when he writes, “everything of Him had passed into the celebration of the sacraments”, of which the Mass is the source and summit. The Mass makes present the Lord to His flock, and it conforms His flock to its shepherd. It is all about Him. I love the Mass because it’s where I find Jesus – literally. I know I can find Him there in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It is a sadness that so many Catholics have walked away because they “feel like they can find Him better elsewhere” when in reality there is nowhere on earth that He is more present than at Mass. Jesus is really at Mass, present in His priest, offering Himself on His altar, making present His own Body and Blood, so that we can receive Him and worship Him.

When we come to the Mass, we are not gathering for a meal, we are not gathering for a community celebration. Certainly, these are elements of the Mass, but they are not the primary reality. When we come to Mass – either in the humblest parish church or the most glorious cathedral – we gather to unite ourselves to Christ as He offers Himself to His Father for our salvation. We gather because we know that nothing like the Mass happens anywhere else; that despite our best efforts, none of us has the power to save ourselves; that despite our most ardent devotion, no amount of prayer, sacrifice, or works could satisfy the divine justice as regards our salvation. We need Christ to offer His life for us, because His sacrifice, His worship, His work on Calvary is the only sacrifice that is perfectly worthy of the Father and infinitely pleasing to Him – everything else we do has value and worth insofar as it is united to this fundamental and primary sacrifice. Only His cross has that power: He didn’t deserve to die for our sins, but because He did we are set free from the punishment that rightly belonged to us. The Mass is Jesus’ gift to His Church to bring all of us, in every time and place, right to the foot of the Cross on Mount Calvary, to be united to His sacrifice and washed in His blood. Only if we understand the Mass in this way can we really enter into the mystery that we celebrate; only once we realize that we need the Mass, not just because it’s what we are accustomed to, but because without it we cannot live and we are not saved, only then will we realize that any effort to be present there is as nothing compared with the grace received: “if we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass”.

This requires the eyes of faith – we must see with our souls if we are going to perceive the mystery taking place at every Mass. Padre Pio has some advice in this regard: “Renew your faith by attending Holy Mass. Keep your mind focused on the mystery that is unfolding before your eyes. In your mind’s eye transport yourself to Calvary and meditate on the Victim who offers Himself to Divine Justice, paying the price of your redemption.” It takes effort, but if we can focus our hearts and minds on what is really happening at Mass, our experience becomes richer, deeper, more fruitful, and we drink profoundly from the life-giving waters that flow abundantly out of the Heart of Our Savior, who offers Himself for our sake and for our salvation at every single Mass. May God bless you in the week ahead and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus. I remain,

Affectionately Yours in Christ,

Fr. Hess


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