In my last essay (Positive Sacrifices for this Lent, 02/24/19), I spoke about preparations for Lent. We were reflecting on what could be done in a positive sense for Lent that not only does not hurt us, but actually enhances our ability to serve God.
In this essay, I would like to suggest some changes that could be made during Lent to make the Eucharistic Liturgy become a more deeply satisfying spiritual experience for you. These thoughts come from my
observations generally from my experience not only here at Immaculate Conception, but throughout my ministry as Priest and Pastor.
These suggestions may not apply to everyone, since some are already practicing these aids to the better understanding of the Liturgy. However, for many, these suggestions may aid in making the Sunday and Weekday Masses more fruitful, both spiritually and psychologically.
1.Get there early.
It is amazing to see that, at the beginning of Mass, there are so few people in the pews, but by the time of the Gospel, the number has practically doubled! When you habitually arrive late for something, it says that you do not think it is so important and that you are not that happy at being there. It also says that the meeting that it represents is not important. Think of having an important meeting with someone you love and admire. Would you be late? Again and again? Of course not! You would arrive early (or at least on time) to take advantage of all the time you have with your friend. If the Eucharist is the most important event of our day, of our week, does it make sense to be late habitually? Rather, would it not make sense to get there early so that
you can look over the readings in the Missalette and prepare yourself for what God wants to tell you? For those who search and hunger for spiritual nourishment, the readings at Mass, and often the homily, can be directed by God to answering many prayers and petitions of the individual believer. To read them first is to prepare the ground for God’s message which is personal and so important that you do not want to miss it either by being late or not having the preparation before Mass to get the ground ready for God’s communication. “Grace builds on Nature” says St. Thomas Aquinas: God can do great and grace-filled things if we have taken the natural means to prepare ourselves. Rushing to our seats in the middle of the proclamation of God’s word is something of an insult to God! I often wonder how much grace we waste by not preparing the way adequately. We must do our part by preparing the soil so that, when the divine seed is planted by God, it can bear a great amount of fruit. Properly preparing ourselves to hear the Word of God at Mass could be a life changing mode of being. Why not try it this Lent!
2.Respond to the Prayers
Sometimes, when we Priests get together socially, we come up with expressions that sometimes help us understand and accept things in our ministry that often confuse or even depress us. One such expression it the “‘The Lord Be With Me’ Mass”. These are the Masses (often funerals and weddings, but also daily and Sunday Masses) when there is little or no response from the congregation when it is their turn to respond. The Priest says: “The Lord be with you!”, but is met with a deafening silence. Hence the joke: “The Lord be with me since obviously no one is going to pray and hope that He is!” The simple response “And with your Spirit” is a powerful reminder to the Priest Celebrant that the people wish him well and hope that the Holy Spirit accompanies His spiritual and liturgical actions. What a downer it is to hear that silence or the confused murmuring in the congregation! The Second Vatican Council has made participation in the Liturgy by the congregation an integral part of the revised Liturgy. What a wonderful thing it would be to hear a congregation respond with feeling and intent!
To be continued next week!