Why the Catholic Mass is not just ‘church’

Pope Francis lifts up the chalice as he leads a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican

Going to church is a good thing. Believing in God, worshipping God in the Holy Spirit, thanking God for our salvation in Jesus Christ is an essential component to being a good disciple. But shouldn’t we worship God in the Way God desires us to worship as taught to us by Jesus himself?  Shouldn’t we honor Jesus’ example, and directive, which issued from the Last Supper, and from His Crucifixion and death? Shouldn’t we listen to His Apostles, springing from the Spirit at Pentecost, and respect, and participate in, His Perfect Sacrifice, perpetuated for all?

Today, there is a prevalent misconception, even among Catholics, that Christ died once in history and that seals the case, so to speak, and all we have to do is believe, and do an occasional good deed, and in doing so we win a ticket to heaven. There is a prevalent misconception that the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is merely a Medieval theological construction of bygone superstition, uneducated in the ways of modern science, thereby repudiating ‘transubstantiation,’ which sets up a Catholicity more in tune with popular thought and trends. ‘Sacrifice’ seems like such a vulgar, primitive notion–‘perpetuation’ and ‘participation’ a myth which binds our morality.

But truth be told. Scripture bears witness to Sacrifice in all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which prefigured the Sacrifice of Jesus. And the Last Supper, which took place during a Passover Supper, celebrated God’s saving grace signified in the sacrifice of a lamb. Add to this the notion of Abraham sparing Isaac, on the advice of the angel, and the lamb stuck in the bushes–offering itself up instead of Isaac–and you see the setting for the New Covenant announced by Jesus in His own words, symbolized, and actualized, in ‘this is my body,’ and ‘this is the blood of the New and everlasting covenant.’

Jesus, being ‘God from God, Light from Light… One in being with the Father,’ foresaw, and initiated, the Eucharistic Sacrifice in His coming Crucifixion, death, and Resurrection. Since Jesus’ death was our salvation, it was the Perfect Sacrifice of Christ the Priest, as He willingly gave Himself, the true Passover Lamb, over in Love to the Will of God the Father, His Will, being our salvation. The Cross was the altar. Similarly, St Paul revealed that Jesus left a space, an opening, in His Perfect Sacrifice for our participation, and the Apostles, and their successors, have perpetually taught that this participation is participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Catholic Mass, therefore, is fellowship, reception of grace in hearing the Word of God in Sacred Scripture, prayer, repentance, praise and worship…all good Christian realities. But it perfects these entities through the pinnacle of worship in Jesus’ own Sacrifice of Himself to the Father. Nothing is higher in praise and worship than Jesus’ self-gift to the Father. The Eucharist, moreover, literally means the thank offering.

Why wouldn’t we want to participate in such Perfect Worship? Why wouldn’t we trust Jesus’ words in Scripture and Apostolic Teaching? Is it because it is too much of a self-sacrifice?

God bless!

 

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