“The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated… Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate.” (Pope Benedict XVI, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, 64)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Catholic Mass: The Love of Jesus for You

In the body of Christ today, especially in those who are separated from the Church (Protestants), I hear a lot of negativity surrounding the use of the word "religion". They like to emphasize "relationship" in contrast with "religion". They say things like, "Jesus did not come to give us religion; He came to give us a relationship."

But this is a fallacy. Jesus came to give us both a religion and a relationship.  Part of it stems from the fact that the Protestant faith isn't a religion at all - they are separated from the true religion. Protestant denominations seem to implement a set of rules because a set of rules is what they believe religion is supposed to be: thou shalt not drink wine, thou shalt not dance, thou shalt not do this, that or the other thing that their denomination 'says' is wrong.

In truth, many Catholics see our faith in much the same way: a bunch of rules and restrictions. Why does the Catholic Church force me to go to church on Sunday? Why do they force me to go to confession when I am in mortal sin before I receive the Eucharist? Why does the Catholic Church force me to confess my sins to a priest "rather than" just confessing them to God himself?  The "questions" are actually statements; the asker doesn't really want to know the answer to them. Rather they are a means for them to vent discontent toward a religion that they feel "bound" to practice.

I understand this sentiment. If we look at religion as a set of restrictions, then religion appears to "put a damper on our life". We play-act faith by going to mass, going through the ritual, but not letting anything really penetrate our lives.

But that is not what Jesus intended when he founded the Catholic Church. What Jesus intended for us was to experience the mystical reality of him through the physical world that we can experience - through the seven sacraments and the body of Christ, which is the Church, starting at the visible head on Earth (the Pope) and within all consecrated and lay people.

Each of the sacraments that Jesus gave to us are an expression of his love for us. We experience his love when we are renewed and justified at baptism, as we feel the water poured over us. We experience him physically in the Eucharist and the liturgy of the mass, when we ponder and remember the redeeming sacrifice he made for us, how he gave himself up for us and our sins - and we taste his very flesh. We experience continuing renewal through the sacrament of penance (or confession) as we experience the forgiving action and hear the words from the priest - they let us know in a very real way that our sins are forgiven. In confirmation we are sealed with the holy spirit with oil, a feel and a smell. Similar with the annointing of the sick, we hear the prayers, are annointed with oil and taste viaticum, food for the journey to heaven. Consecrated persons experience what must be a profound laying on of hands that imputes an indelible mark upon their soul, and their marriage to the Lord starts not when they reach heaven but on that very day of consecration/ordination.

In that same way, the liturgy is full of signs of Jesus' love for us, but yet so few of us know the spiritual realities that are happening in the mass because they take place in the invisible spiritual realm.  So the liturgy is designed to make those realities known to us.  One can really learn to understand God's love for us by becoming knowledgeable about the liturgy and what is behind the rubrics of the mass.  

That is what we hope to give to you in this blog - a respect for the dignity and beauty of the Catholic mass, a realization of just how important it is to have good liturgy, and a deep understanding of the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith.  

The mass is the perfect prayer, an eternal offering of thanks for the love that he has given us.  Let us rejoice to have been given such a gift, and return the love that Jesus has shown with our whole selves, and live the true faith!
"Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood.  Let us then go to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach that he bore. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come. Through him [then] let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name." - Hebrews 13:12-15

1 comment:

  1. Note that I do believe that Protestants can be saved, just like anyone who tries to live their life according to the state that God created for them. But those who know the true faith and reject it, well, that's a different path altogether.