We hear these comments from people who have stopped hearing Mass and even from those who still do:
I don’t understand any of it.
I can’t concentrate when I’m there so what’s the use?
It doesn’t have any effect on me.
It is boring or
The priest’s homily bores me to death.
And so on…
A few years ago, my family and I heard Mass at the usual time that we always did and I was disappointed to find that it was not the usual priest who would be celebrating the Mass. I liked this priest because he gave the homily quite well not just in a way that is relevant to our times but also in an informative, reflective, expressive and clear manner. Instead, in his place was this particular priest whom I heard give a homily before in another schedule and bored me to death, whose generic homily was delivered in a monotone, whose attempt for humor often failed to get any response.
With these thoughts in mind at the beginning of the Mass, the Lord rebuked me, telling me that instead of complaining about this priest and shutting my mind to him, I should be praying for him as well that God may speak through him, that the Holy Spirit may give him wisdom to enlighten everyone who is present. I was ashamed of myself and indeed prayed for this priest. During the homily, I was quite surprised that the priest’s message specifically answered a question and concern I had been asking God throughout the week. God answered through his lips. I was embarrassed and humbled by this experience. Of course, we understand that the priest must also live a holy life and he has the responsibility to do his religious duties, his regular meditation and prayer, spiritual exercises among others. We, the people who are present are also called to prepare for the Mass, to actively participate and meditate as we lovingly partake in the Holy Sacrifice of our Lord. We have responsibilities to pray for one another including the priest who will be taking the important role as the representative of Christ during Mass. The thing is, we need to check our own disposition.
A few months ago, during a Sunday Mass, the priest mentioned something related to this. He said there are people who no longer hear Mass because they do not benefit anything from it. He mentioned that this is a matter of disposition. And I totally agree.
How interiorly disposed are we to the Holy Mass? Often, we view it as a program and the priest, a mere host who should be able to entertain us during his homily with his humor or impress us with his eloquence and intelligence. We get bored when the priest does not speak well or when he leads us to too serious reflections about God. Sometimes we judge his personal character in our thoughts because of the awful things we hear from others about him. We check our phones or master the art of staring at the priest while our mind wanders pleasurably on something else, or we allow ourselves to be distracted with what others are wearing (as we judge them in our thoughts), or we inwardly look forward to where to eat or go afterwards. We are all guilty of any of these at some point in our lives. We also blame it on the type of church songs or music that does not match our modern interests. We carelessly walk inside the church like how we do in a park or mall, whispering here and there..
It is important for us to understand that the Holy Mass is not intended to entertain. It is not similar to attending a program or party where we can talk to our family or friends, and come and leave whenever we want to. Here, we are called to worship the Lord as we meditate on His Passion and Death on the Cross, as we try to realize, within the limitations of our human minds, the immeasurable height of His Love and Mercy, in contrast to our sinfulness and unworthiness. Here, we take part in the Highest Sacrifice offered by our Lord and we face Him in humble sorrow for having offended Him, the One we love and the One Who loves us so. Let us focus on Him.
It is not entertaining at all – but it is far from boring. The key is our own spiritual disposition. We don’t wait for God to move us so that we can ‘enjoy’ the Mass. We willingly ask for His Grace to allow us to believe beyond what we can see, sense or feel, that though we cannot see or feel that Jesus is there, He actually is, through the Host – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
It is also necessary that we do not just remember God during Mass. How disposed are we to Him the entire week? Do we read His Word and spend quiet moments to talk to Him and to listen to Him? We are often connected to the internet but are we connected to Him? Is He present in what we think, do and say?
And if we do not understand the Mass, do we seek to do so? Do we exert effort to learn from others who can help us understand so that we can eventually appreciate it?
Let us reflect on our own personal relationship with God first and foremost and to renew our relationship with Him each time. Let us be mindful of our ways and thoughts when we hear Mass, to habitually pray for our priest, for the church and community even if it is our first time to visit a particular church. No matter who the priest is and wherever the church may be in this world, God is ever present in the Eucharist and we will benefit from it – more than we can ever understand in this lifetime. We need to see past the creature and see the Creator.
Have we been looking forward to hearing Mass or has it become a regular routine that has made us numb to the beauty of it?
Let us not miss the opportunity to commune with Jesus and see the experience through the eyes of faith as fresh and new each time.
Lord, forgive us for having offended You in any way. Please help us to prepare for Mass both exteriorly and interiorly. Help us to generously pray for our priest and not focus on his weaknesses or imperfections, that the Holy Spirit may always guide him and give him wisdom to speak the words he must speak to the congregation, that he may be strengthened in faith, live a holy life and resist any kind of temptation. Help us to always have the proper disposition, that knowing Christ is present, we may be filled with unspeakable reverence, love and joy at the sweetest moment we can ever experience on earth. Amen.
To God be the Glory.