Meeting Christ in the Mass

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2nd in a series of short homilies on the Mass

“Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” Today we continue this series of daily homilies on the Mass itself. And today I want to consider that we come to Mass to encounter Christ. And not just to meet him, shallowly; but to interact with him; to truly hear him; to receive him; to give ourselves to him; and indeed to unite ourselves with him as we join with him in cooperating in a great work of his.

In the Gospel of Luke (22:15) we read that, at the Last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer”—and then he instituted the Eucharist. And however much we may or may not desire to join with him at any given Mass; however much we may be focused or distracted; he is present and he earnestly desires us and our full sharing with him.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “Unlike all others, Our Blessed Lord came into this world to die.” In each of the four Gospels, how much of the book is devoted to the Passion narrative? Depending on which Gospel, 20 percent, 30, even 40 percent of the whole book is given over to just the events of Holy Week. One scholar remarked a century ago that “one could call the gospels passion narratives with extended introductions.”

And Christ does not want you to miss out on sharing in his Paschal Mystery just because you did not live in the Holy Land in the first century. It is not only the Virgin Mary and St. John and St. Mary Magdalene and a few others who should stand at the foot of his cross, sharing in his one perfect sacrifice. “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” (John 10:17-18) It is not only the women at the tomb, and the disciples in the upper room, and the others who should encounter him risen—not even just the “five hundred brothers at once” (1 Cor 15:6) that St. Paul speaks of. It is you. He wants you to stand with him at the cross; he wants you to encounter him risen and glorious, in “the breaking of the bread.”

And he has made you for this—that is, he has remade you for it. You have been reborn for it. One could make the argument that baptism is the most powerful of the sacraments. For in baptism, what happens? What happened to you?

  • You were washed of the stain of original sin with which you were born, in human nature.
  • You were configured to Christ, made like him.
  • You received a character upon your soul, an imprint, a mark, a brand, that is indelible and can never go away; that is there to enable you to do new things.
  • You were baptized into Christ’s death, immersed in it, in the baptismal water, and raised up out of it to live new life in him.
  • You were adopted as a son or daughter of God the Father.
  • You were filled with faith, hope, and love; you were filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • You were made a member of the body of Christ, joined to him, and joined with others, different, and yet made to go together and work together harmoniously, like parts of a body.

All of this happened in baptism, the gateway to the other sacraments. And yet it all points you to this one, the Eucharist, the Mass. It prepared you for it; it made you to participate in it, to join with Christ in it. That is why the current baptismal rite concludes with the parents, godparents, and infant moving from the font to the altar, and there praying and receiving blessing. Because this is what you were remade for; this is what you were reborn for. This is what Christ “earnestly desires”: he desires you.

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