Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Mass is never normal

Holy Thursday

Most of us come for Mass every Sunday and this has become part and parcel of our lives. For many people, Mass is often seen as a time we sacrifice to God – a time to give thanks for all that he has done for us and also a time to pray for our needs. Mass has become so “normal” and “unchallenging” that we sometimes take it for granted.

Today’s liturgy breaks these false notions. The Mass is never ‘normal.’ Every Mass is a challenge to live out our lives as disciples of Christ. What then is the true meaning of the Mass?

First of all the Mass celebrates change and liberation. We see this in the First Reading. God commands Moses and the Israelites to continue celebrating the Feast of the Passover so that they will remember how God saved them and liberated them from Egypt. But the Passover wasn’t only to commemorate an event of the past, it was also celebrating the saving grace of God which is given at the present moment. Therefore, whenever we celebrate the Mass we are celebrating the mystery of our salvation. We are reminded how God has saved us and is still saving us from the powers of darkness and evil and giving us new life through his Son Jesus Christ, who gives his own body and blood for us to share.

Secondly, the Mass proclaims the death of Christ and likewise our death too. These are the words of St. Paul in the second reading. Whenever Jesus told his disciples: “do this as a memorial of me,” he is not only speaking of the act of receiving communion. To “do this” means to model our lives on the life of Christ. To “do this” would be to ‘repent and believe.’ To “do this” would be to “love God with our entire heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbour as ourselves.” To “do this” would be to “forgive our enemy as we have been forgiven by our Heavenly Father.” To “do this” would be ‘to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.” The Mass points to Jesus sacrifice of love on the cross. Jesus gave up his own life so all may live. We who participate at every Mass are also challenged to give up our lives, to die to our sinfulness and selfishness, to die to our prejudice and hatred - to die for others.

Thirdly, the Mass is a call to service – to serve as Jesus served his disciples. When it was proposed that the priest wash the feet of the altar servers this year, there was some objections. Some felt that the altar servers were too young. Others felt that there were more worthy persons who should sit up here and have their feet wash. I think that we have gotten the whole thing wrong. If Jesus was here today, he would be washing the feet of prostitutes, divorcees, lapsed Catholics, AIDS patients, liars and sinners. Instead of fighting for places of honour and power, instead of arguing who is worthy to have his feet washed this year, we should be copying the example of Jesus – who humbled himself to wash the feet of those who were unworthy. In the Mass, there is no room for pride or power. In the Mass, there is only room for humble service.

Today, let us thank Jesus for the gift of the Mass. If we really understood its meaning whenever we celebrate it, we will never again take it for granted. Let us therefore, go and live the Mass!

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