I have had the great privilege of offering Mass several times in the many convents of the Missionaries of Charity sisters. So, I am used to seeing these words in a prominent place in the sacristy where priests prepare for Holy Mass: “Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.”
There is a double invitation in these words to all the faithful, particularly to the priest, if we are going to experience the powerful transforming power of each Mass. Firstly, we must prepare ourselves well for the Mass. It is not enough to just show up for the Mass without due preparation. Secondly, we must allow the Eucharistic sacrifice to transform us from the inside out. If the Mass will transform us, we cannot hold on to our selfish and self-centered ways of thinking and acting after as at before the Mass.
Let us now reflect on how we respond to this double invitation so that we experience the power of the Mass in our daily lives.
We prepare for the Mass first by deep personal prayer whereby we listen to Christ and then speak to Him from our hearts. We must pray in a way that allows the indwelling Christ to engage and transform our memory, intellect, imagination and will. Such prayer demands that we do not filter His words to us and we do not try to hide anything from Him.
Such a prayer will surely deepen our faith and hunger for our Eucharistic Lord. Jesus’ lengthy but enlightening conversation with the crowd at Capernaum brought them to desire the mysterious bread that He was offering to them, “Sir, give us this bread always.”(Jn 6:33) How can the Eucharist transform us when we receive Jesus as a complete stranger and with little or no desire for deeper communion with Him? Through sincere prayer, we allow Jesus to set our hearts on fire with love for the Eucharist as He did to the two disciples in Emmaus, “Where not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way?”(Lk 24:32)
We also prepare for Mass by a life of ongoing conversion. In addition to rejecting sin, such a conversion demands a continuous spiritual growth from good to better. Our unrepented sins and our indifference to our spiritual progress prevent us from receiving the full impact of sacramental grace from the Eucharist. This is why our reception of the Eucharist demands regular and proper sacramental confession of sins in the sacrament of reconciliation. It also demands that we attend each Mass asking, “How can I become more like Jesus Christ and less of myself in and through this Mass?”
Our preparation for Mass should also include a life of selfless service to others and witness to Jesus Christ. The Eucharist will impact us to the very extent that we also recognize Christ in our brothers and sisters and reverently serve Him in them in a way that reflects the love, forgiveness, and selfless love of Christ. We cannot expect any Eucharistic transformation in our lives when we take advantage of others and become insensitive to the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable unborn infants. How can we be transformed at Mass when our lives are a complete counter-witness to the selfless and life-giving love of Jesus?
In addition to our proper preparation for Mass, we must also allow Eucharistic Lord to transform our way of thinking and valuing. The New bread of the Eucharist demands a completely new way of thinking and living, “I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”
Our Eucharistic Lord illumines our hearts with His own light so that we willingly “put away the old self of our former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds.”(Eph 4:17, 22) We cannot experience personal Eucharistic transformation when we hold on to our old values and ways of thinking. How can Christ transform us when we are satisfied to just blend and become like others, instead of trying to become more and more like Christ whose life we now gratuitously possess?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the most powerful thing in this world is our new life in Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the divine guarantee that we possess that life even in this world, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”(Jn 6:27) Nothing can put an end to this our life in Christ, not even death and grave.
This life in Christ is offered to us at each and every holy Mass. Why then do we still remain the same? Why aren’t we transformed powerfully by the Masses we offer and attend? Why are we losing faith in the Real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist? How come we are submitting hopelessly to the spirit of the world instead of transforming the world with the light of the Gospel? Why are our clergy constantly embroiled in one scandal or another? Why do we – priests, religious, and laity – violate and abandon our vows, promises, and marital commitments so easily? Why are we as corrupt, lazy, immoral, dishonest, angry, joyless, hopeless, etc., as those who do not believe in the Holy Eucharist and Mass and do not care for Holy Communion?
The answer is simple: we are simply showing up at Mass. We do not see each mass as our first Mass, last Mass, or only Mass. Consequently, we are not properly disposed to receive our Lord sacramentally and we are definitely not ready and willing to allow Him transform us. He always comes to each one of us in each valid Mass but He cannot force Himself on us to transform us. We must give Him the permission to do so.
“Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass!” Imagine what our Church would look like if all the Catholic faithful, particularly the priests, would approach the Holy sacrifice of the Mass with these words firmly planted in our minds and hearts. Imagine what our liturgies and daily lives would be like if we saw each Mass as our only Mass. Imagine the joyful faith and expectation we would have in each Mass if we approached it as our first Mass. Imagine the great examples of heroic holiness we would exhibit if we saw each Mass as our viaticum, our very last Eucharist preparing us to meet God face to face.
The transforming power of each Mass remains because Christ is forever truly present in each and every consecrated host. He says to us, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.”(Lk 12:49) Our Eucharistic Lord has the power and will to transform us first and then the world through our participation in each Mass. All He asks of us is this – prepare for Mass well and allow Him to transform us from within through the Mass. He will surely do the rest.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
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