“Woe to you, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”
After a very successful World Youth Day (WYD) celebration in Madrid, the Holy Father’s final stop was an audience with over two thousand volunteers. These young men and women came from all over the world and most of them sacrificed their last vacation days (before school) to assist the pilgrims. Their mission was simple and gigantic: that the pilgrims have a safe and wonderful experience. Many of these volunteers never had the opportunity to see or hear the Holy Father even though they were at WYD. Many were working behind the scenes. But the Holy Father gave them what they sought: an opportunity to serve Him, to help His ministry. Why? Because by helping him they were helping the Church, which means, they were helping Christ. It also means the Holy Father continues to be a faithful witness to The Truth and to The Way! He continues to show the Way!
Priests are pulled in every single direction. Many of the faithful seek just a few seconds of their time. But these seconds soon become minutes and minutes become hours. I cannot tell you how often I am asked to spend just a couple of minutes with this group or another. But it is a little sad to speak in front of only ten or twenty people. It is a little discouraging to celebrate Mass in a nearly empty Church. This does not happen often, but when it does, it is a wake-up call to all of us. People, including young people desire God! We must remember that we have been asked to bear witness to Christ everywhere and at all times. Don't get me wrong. I love a challenge! I wish I could give more and more! And I think I often do. I just wish I could multiply myself. The remarkable thing is…I can, with your help!
St. Paul remarks in today’s first reading: “We give thanks to God always for you, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing how you were chosen.” (1Thes 1:1-10)
Without these faithful few, St. Paul would never have been able to go from one city to the next. The Apostle to the Gentiles would never have been able to spread The Word and carry out his God-given ministry. Why am I mentioning this? Because too often, after I give a talk on this or that subject, I hear the faithful complain to me that they are not getting anything out of Mass. Of course we all know the knee-jerk reaction, “What are you putting into Mass?” But I would prefer to remind everyone that Mass is a call to live our baptismal commitment as priest, prophet and King. To be a priest means to bring Christ to others. To be a prophet means to speak the Word of God to others. To be a king means to make it your responsibility to care for others. Mass can be a very powerful moment if we allow the Lord to transform us. The reason why we go to Mass is to allow the Lord to do with us what He does in the Eucharist: transform our substance into His Body and Blood. We are not called to receive and leave, but to “go in peace to serve and love the Lord.” If we are not careful, if we do not do what the Lord charged us to do, then we can easily become religious hyporcrities. How easy it is to create our own God! How easy it is to follow our own will!
We can do the same thing the early Christians did, AND, be just as successful as they were! The Mass has been around since the very beginning of Christianity. St. Justin Martyr wrote a letter to emperor Antoninus Pius describing what Christians did when they gathered together. This letter is dated 155 A.D. It is the earliest written description of the parts of the Mass. Our transformation during Mass will help transform our Church, which will transform the World!