NGUYEN: What’s your attitude at Mass?

September 26, 2023

A woman and a young girl look through a hymnal during a recent Mass. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

Common to all Catholics is the act of attending Mass. In today’s hectic world with a myriad of family and work responsibilities, this weekend routine too often becomes mundane, causing some to resent taking the time — only one hour a week — when God has given us all so many blessings during the previous six days.

Still, others go to church and allow their minds to wander, thinking of things they wish they were doing instead.

Many Catholics go to fulfill an obligation learned well in catechism class merely out of fear, not out of love for Jesus. We know that deliberately missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin, and so dragging ourselves to church becomes a burden that only escalates bitterness toward a stern God. While our physical bodies are present, our minds and hearts are not.

To this concern, St. Francis de Sales advises us to bring our mind back and refocus on the gift of the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ, even “though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour [at Mass] would be very well employed.”

Remember: Mass is a meeting place between the divine and human. Every time there is an earthly Liturgy or Mass, we share in a foretaste of the heavenly Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8). In the Old Testament (Ex 33:7), Moses pitched a tent some distance away outside the camp for anyone who wanted to consult the Lord. This “tent of meeting” foreshadowed our current Liturgy. How great it is to know that Jesus Christ is always available and wants to be with us every single time we go to Mass!

Being conscious of this fact — especially during the Eucharistic Revival — should revive our attitude that going to Mass is going to meet God through the person of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Surely, the way we anticipate, dress and participate in the Mass will improve.

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Sound familiar? Recently, the phrase “Christ will come again” has been a special prompt for me, at least before Mass is over, to help me refocus my wandering thoughts back to the Mass where I should be in conversation with Jesus in the Eucharist rather than with others in my thoughts.

Every time I enter the Warren Chapel at St. Dominic Chancery, the engraving of the Memorial Acclamation on the sanctuary walls, from left to right: “Christ has died” with the image of Christ crucified; “Christ is risen” with the image of the risen Christ on center wall of the sanctuary; and “Christ will come again” next to the tabernacle, is a great reminder for me that Christ is coming to meet me personally at every Mass that I attend, particularly and intimately through Holy Communion.

Certainly, Christ will come again on the last day, the Second Coming of Christ, as New Testament writers refer to the “Parousia.”

But in Greek, Parousia is also transliterated as “coming” or “presence.” Indeed, the risen Christ has come through the Mystery of Incarnation to be present with us yet hidden under the sign of bread and wine.

Written to priests in the sacristy of every convent in Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s congregation is “Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”

Let us embrace the truth that Christ is coming to meet us each individually at Mass like a lover anticipates a date with the beloved so that our next Mass attendance will not be tedious and ordinary; rather, let us rejoice with hearts full of fervent love and enthusiasm to go meet Jesus in the Eucharist, who is the true source of everything that we need. †

Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP, is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.