by Virginia G. Manzo, MD
What are the numerous saving effects of the Catholic Mass? The Mass obtains sorrow and pardon for our sins; it lessens temporal punishment due to sin; it weakens the influence of Satan and the untamed impulses of our flesh; it strengthens the bonds of our union with the Body of Christ; it protects us from danger and disaster; it shortens punishment in purgatory and obtains for us a higher degree of glory in Heaven. St. Lawrence Justinian adds: “the sinner is reconciled with God; the just man becomes more upright; sins wiped away; vices are eliminated and virtues and are merits gain growth; the devil's schemes are frustrated.”
And yet, with all its boundless benefits, how do we treat the Holy Mass? Unfortunately, many Catholics treat the Holy Mass as a purely external rite. Oftentimes it is regarded as a tedious duty which has to be complied with every Sunday. St Josemaria Escriva the founder of Opus Dei, once commented, ''You find the mass long? It is because your love is short.”
The blessings granted to those who assist at the Divine Sacrifice are beyond comprehension. St. Leonard once exclaimed:
O, poor deceived people, what are you doing? Why do you not crowd the churches in order that you might attend as many masses as possible? Why do you not take as models the angels who, whenever mass is being celebrated, descend in legions from Paradise and kneel before the altar in reverence that they may efficaciously intercede for us?
What then should be our proper disposition toward the Holy Mass in order not to waste the superabundant merits that we gain from every celebration? How much we partake of these benefits depends on the quality of our interior disposition. The proper disposition can be summed up in one sentence: Consider that every Mass you attend is your last one on this earth. Every one assisting at Mass should therefore be devout, sincere, attentive, contrite, grateful, and with a heartfelt love for the Lord. Remember that one single mass you assist during your lifetime is much more valuable than many masses said or offered for you after your death.
Since every Catholic Mass is an invitation from the Lord himself to partake in the Holy Banquet, we come punctually with great anticipation, even ten to fifteen minutes early, to give us time to recollect our thoughts. We must be properly attired in clothes that are not necessarily expensive but clean and most of all, decent. Tennis shorts are proper in a tennis court but immodest inside the church. A tube top or a spaghetti-strapped blouse may not raise eyebrows in a formal ball but are considered indecent and disrespectful inside the house of God.
During the entire celebration, we should remember that we are in the presence of the King of Kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe, the Owner of the entire creation. We must participate actively and attentively, avoiding things like tardiness, unnecessary conversation, improper clothes, a ringing cell phone, etc.
At the Consecration when the bread and wine are transformed into the real flesh and blood of Jesus Christ through the miracle of Transubstantiation, we remember that we are before the Real Presence. In Holy Communion, we receive the Lord in the fullness of his humanity and divinity. It is therefore sacrilegious to receive him if we are not in the state of grace, meaning we have a mortal sin. Mortal sins must first be absolved in the Sacrament of Penance or Confession before we can receive the Lord. Venial sins are not obstacles to receiving the Sacred Body of our Lord but a sincere contrition must first be manifested before we can partake of the Holy Banquet.
Remember that while the Sacred Host is still in the mouth and until it has completely dissolved in the stomach (about 10 to 15 minutes according to scientific studies), Our Lord is within us in his real Body and Soul, as Living Man and God. During these few minutes that he is with us, we take this precious opportunity talk to him as we would talk to a friend, a brother or a father who loves us so much and is willing to listen. That is why it is suggested that we do not leave the church immediately after Mass but spend a few minutes thanking and talking to our Lord. After the Sacred Host in the form of bread has been dissolved inside us, his Body is no longer physically with us but his grace remains.
Nothing else has any meaning if we neglect the Mass especially on Sundays or holy days of obligation, or if it is left to be "fitted in'' at some spare moment while the rest of the day is filled with things which we reckon to be more important. If we frequently consider the many beneficial effects of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist on our soul, we will value receiving our Lord as often as we can, on a daily basis, if possible.
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