Mass is act of worship designed by God, not to be judged by people

Published: May 13, 2006

By Father James P. West

Sadly, it seems that there has been a serious decline in this modern age in the understanding and appreciation of the Mass. Yet, if we will but look carefully at what stands before us whenever we are present for the holy sacrifice, we will certainly marvel at so great a mystery and thank God for it. How easy it is for us to get lost in all the little things and for our priorities to become incredibly disordered. We lodge criticisms at the Mass itself, criticisms which find their origin in our lack of understanding of what we are actually dealing with. I will address a few of those criticisms here. Criticism 1: “The Mass is boring.” What does this mean? It means that we have made a mental shift that we are not allowed to make, the move to a view that somehow the Mass is all about us and that it had better please our sensibilities and keep us excited and entertained at any given moment. But why, exactly, are we present for Mass at all? For fun and excitement? Of course not. We are there for the purpose of worshipping God according to the pattern, which he has set for us. After all, God knows much better than we the form of worship, which appeals most completely to the divine mind. He makes that clear enough in both the Old and the New Testaments, as God decreed through Moses the manner of worship in the old dispensation, and as God through Christ decreed the manner of worship in the new, as well. “Do this in memory of me,” said our Lord to his Apostles, not instructing them to devise their own form of worship — something that would best appeal to them personally — but rather commanding them to offer this particular act of worship that is carried straight to the heart of God. Criticism 2: “There’s not enough action in the Mass.” This criticism flows from the first. Is there really so little in the Mass to keep our attention? The Church teaches that when we are present for the Mass we are seated with Christ and his Apostles at the table of the Last Supper. We are also standing with our Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the Cross. What more could we possibly want? Criticism 3: “The Mass takes too long.” What does this mean? Quite simply it means, “I don’t have time for God. My time is far too valuable.” However, there are 168 hours in a week. Each one of them is God’s gift to us. You see the Lord God always has time for us. Of the 168 hours in the week, God allows us 167 and asks for only one. We may work, we may play, we may study, we may rest for 167 of the 168 hours. He asks for only one hour in return, a shockingly modest request on God’s part. We constantly seek those things that make us happy. We want what we want, and we want it now. Instant gratification. Instant joy. Yet the Mass is an acquired taste. It requires prayer, study and commitment on our part for us to obtain the full benefit of so great a gift. When we apply ourselves fully to this task, we find the secret to true appreciation for the holy Mass and experience real joy in the worship of God. Father James P. West is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock.