Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent and the Mass

1st Sunday of Advent, year C 2015:
Today we begin the season of Advent.  When I was a kid, Advent was my favorite season.  It meant Christmas was right around the corner.  It meant presents and vacation from school.  And to make it that much better, the church was helping you do the countdown.  Every time I came to Mass I looked excitedly at how many candles were being lit. 
Advent is a season to prepare.  We are preparing for the celebration of Christmas.  We are preparing to welcome the newborn baby Jesus.  But, it is also a season for us to prepare to welcome Christ when he comes again.  Are you ready to meet him?
I’m convinced that we will only be ready to meet Jesus on that last day if we are able to see him even now in our daily lives.  Christ is not too distant or remote.  He is close to us.  Jesus speaks to us through the scriptures and through the voice of the Church.  Jesus said that when we took care of others in his name, we were taking care of him.  He said, where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.
Jesus is not distant or remote.  He is present with us.  We will be ready to meet Jesus on the last day if we are able to meet him today.  The most concrete and tangible way for us to meet Jesus is right here at the Holy Mass.  Advent is a time for us to prepare to meet Jesus, but right here at the Mass he comes to us every day.
I thought that this year, for Advent, it would be a good time for us, as a parish, to reflect a little bit on the Mass.  The mass is something that is a part of our lives, but how often do we stop and reflect on the Mass itself?  First, let’s think a bit about the Mass.  Second, I’ll give some tips for getting the most out of Mass.
We know Mass is important.  The Second Vatican Council called the Eucharist the source and summit of our Catholic faith, but what is it?
First of all, Mass is worship.  It is a chance for us to gather as a body to worship almighty God.  First and foremost, the Mass is all about God.  We are not here so that we can feel good.  We are not here so that we are the focus.  I know many people who say they don’t go to Mass because they don’t “get anything out of it.”  I’ve never thought about Mass as something for me.  I’ve always thought about Mass as something I do for God.  It is truly right and just to give God praise.  How often have we heard those words?  Now, don’t get me wrong, the Mass has amazing spiritual benefits.  I’m not here so that I can feel good, but it makes me feel good to worship God.  There are many personal benefits to going to Mass, but all of these come from worshipping almighty God.
Some people say: I worship God on my own, I don’t need church.  Maybe so…  I certainly hope that each one of us has a healthy life of prayer.  But, since when was it a good idea to go alone in this life?  Football players need teammates, police officers need partners, even golfers have caddies.  We never live life all alone.  So, why would we think we could have a spiritual relationship with God all by ourselves?  Coming here to Mass is an important part of our spiritual life because we remember that we are part of something bigger.  We are part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  When we come to Mass together, it keeps us connected to the body, it gives us strength to continue as disciples of Christ.  Also, sometimes we are the ones who can reach out and give help to others.  You never know how your kindness, your prayers, could make a huge difference in someone’s life. 
So those are two keys for understanding the Mass.  First, the Mass is worship.  Second, it is the place where we connect with the Body of Christ.  Now, here are some tips for making sure you are well prepared for Sunday Mass.
First, spend some time in prayer every day.  Spend some time worshiping and praising God during the rest of the week.  Then, when you come to Mass, it is part of the conversation and not the whole story.  Sunday Mass and weekday Mass should be a part of our well-rounded life of prayer and discipleship.
Second, put some time in before Mass and look at the readings.  The more thought you put into the scriptures, the more you will hear when they are read.  You can easily find the readings online, or you can use our parish app. 
Another good tip: get to church on time, or even get here early.  By getting to Mass early you can spend time praying before Jesus in the Sacrament, you can quite down your mind and heart.  You can offer yourself to the Father in worship, thanks, and praise. 
While you are at Mass, pray and participate to the best of your ability.  This is the communal prayer of the Church, we can’t do it without you.  The more you put into the Mass, the more that comes out of it.  I know it is not always the easiest thing to participate fully in the mass.  I know many of you are parenting small children.  Thank you for doing your best be sure your kids don’t disrupt the people around you.  I know for many of you, this means many trips to the back of church.  It might seem like you are constantly walking back and forth.  Do the best you can.   I don’t think Mass is a game of perfect, we are all doing the best we can.

Mass is not easy or simple.  It takes a lot of work and planning.  Our ministers put in hours of practice to be ready.  But it is all worth it.  It is truly right and just to give him thanks and praise.    We come to this mass because Jesus is here.  We come to this mass to praise him and to connect with his body, the Church.  At this Mass, and at every Mass, the Lord comes to meet us.  Are we ready?  Do we put in time and effort to be ready to welcome Christ at Mass?  The more we meet him here, the more we will be ready to meet him when he comes again.  

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