August 23, 2015
Sometime ago a Mormon who was interested in becoming a Catholic told me, “Father Philip, before I came to your church, I used to go to a Mormon Church. There I met a lot of former Catholics, who have left the Catholic Church and became Mormons. Two of various reasons they gave me were, first, they felt that the Mass was boring and they didn’t get anything from that. Second, they chose to walk away because of the teaching of the Catholic Church on moral issues.”
I have two questions for you. First, do you find the Mass boring? Second, do you find it difficult to observe the teachings of the Church that come from the Bible?
Sometimes I asked the children these questions and none of them dared to answer “Yes” but they silently nodded their head. If you compared the Catholic Mass to any Sunday worship of other churches, you would find the Mass boring. In Mass there is no rock music, no country music, no movie stars, no entertainment, no dancing, a lot of readings, long prayers, especially a heavy and boring homily (by the way my homily is not that long and boring, don’t you think?). Is it true? Yes it would be true if we did not see the purpose of the Mass. The Mass is not a social gathering. It is not a social meeting. We gather together not to entertain each other, but to worship God, to offer a sacrifice, Jesus himself, to God, to listen to his word, and to be nourished by his word and by his body and blood.
There is no better way to worship God as we do in Mass because in Mass we worship God, not only by ourselves, but we worship God with the Lord Jesus, with all the saints, with all members of the Church, the living and the dead.
In Mass we listen to the word of the Lord. Of course, we can, and should read the Bible by ourselves at home. But the word of God is supposed to be proclaimed. Someone in the community of believers must proclaim the word out loud and let the word enter into the heart and mind of all believers, because his word is the word of eternal life. In Mass we are nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord which bring life to us. The body and blood of the Lord are real. It is so real that the Jewish people could not accept it and did not follow the Master anymore. It is so real that the first Christian communities were accused of cannibalism and were persecuted because of that. Now there are more than one Christian Church, no name is mentioned but you can do the research yourself, that DO NOT consider the bread we eat during Mass is the Lord’s body and the wine we drink is the Lord’s blood. Would you choose to walk away if we say that anyone who does not believe in the true presence of Jesus in the bread and wine at Mass should not come to receive Communion? Would you choose to walk away if we say that whoever lives an immoral life should not come to receive Communion?
St. Paul said: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (1Cor 11: 27-29)
The people in the past chose to walk away because they could not accept the teaching of the Lord on the Eucharist: eating his flesh and drinking his blood. A lot of people today choose to walk away from the Catholic Church because they cannot accept the explanation of the Church on the Word of Christ. The Church does not teach anything that does not exist in the Bible explicitly or implicitly. The Church only understands the word of Christ as the apostles and the 2000 year long tradition understood it.
For example, the Church says every Catholic must attend Mass on Sunday as the first Christians gathered together every Sunday to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. But many do not take it as a priority of their life. They go whenever they feel to go. The Church says marriage between a man and a woman is a sacrament as St. Paul in the second reading today compared the love of husband and wife to the love of Christ for the Church, so marriage is for life. But you can see a lot of Catholic marriages break up after weeks or months. You can also see that many Catholics in names do not support the teaching of the Church and the teaching of the local bishop.
Religion is a matter of freedom. No one can force us to follow a religion. We can choose for ourselves as Joshua said to the Jews: “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Every time we find the Lord’s teaching difficult, we should listen to his question again: “Do you also wish to go away?” And we should learn to answer as St. Peter did: ‘Lord, to whom can we go. You have the words of eternal life. We have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Enjoy the last week of summer!