Why do you come to Mass? Why do you come to Church? If we can’t answer this question correctly a lot of other things are going to be really, really wrong in our lives.
Why we come to Mass? Why do we come to Church? Now we’re going to do a survey. Raise your hand if your answer to that question was to pray. Good. Raise your hand if the response was to receive Holy Communion. That’s a fantastic answer. Raise your hand if it was to hear music or sing songs. Raise your hand if it was to hear amazing preaching. Raise your hand if it was to be with other people. Raise your hand if it was to take in the beauty of the Church, the priest’s vestments, the experience of just being here in beauty. Raise your hand if it was to give money to the Church.
I would beg to say that none of you probably responded to go to Calvary, to be at the death of Jesus and to be at the foot of the Cross. Yet, the reality is that in its very essence that is what the Mass is. The Mass is Calvary. Let me prove this point pretty quickly. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a Mass that didn’t have any music. Is it still a Mass? Yes. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a Mass where the priest didn’t preach. Raise your hand if you ever went to a Mass where you wish the priest didn’t preach. Raise your hand if you ever went to Mass and did not receive Holy Communion.
Okay, and that should be the case for a lot of us. In fact, hopefully it was a case when you were a little kid because you didn’t receive Holy Communion until you were eight years old. But you still went to Mass. Some of you married someone who was not Catholic and later converted and you went to Mass for years without receiving Holy Communion. Some of you, because you ate too close to Mass, and out of respect for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, didn’t receive Holy Communion since you didn’t obey the fast. Some of you didn’t receive Holy Communion because you were in the state of mortal sin and we should never receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. So, there’s lots of people who don’t go to Mass to receive Communion.
So, we don’t go to Mass to receive Holy Communion. In fact, no one has to receive Holy Communion at Mass except for the priest. No one. At World Youth Day 2011 there were 2.5 million people at the closing Mass. There was a thunderstorm the night before and all of the tents that housed the hosts that were going to be turned into Jesus got taken out in the thunderstorm. None of the 2.5 million people received Communion except for the priests and it was still Mass on a Sunday.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to Mass at a Church, like when you were on vacation and you knew no one there. You still went to Mass though you didn’t go for the community. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to Mass in an ugly Church. Raise your hand if the priest’s vestments have ever been ugly. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to Mass and not put anything in the collection. So, the reality is that none of these things are necessary for Mass. None of them. And yet, if we asked the majority of Catholics “Why do you go to Mass?” those are the things that are going to be listed.
So, what is the Mass? The Mass is Calvary. What is Mass? It’s Calvary. And what happened on Calvary? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son and on Mount Calvary he died and those who believe in Him may have eternal life. There is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ. And there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ on Calvary offering His Body and His Blood for the salvation of the world. He is the Lamb of God who is slain. He is the perfect sacrifice. He is our only chance.
The night before Jesus died on Mount Calvary, less than 24 hours before He instituted the Last Supper in the Upper Room for one reason. And that’s so everyone would have access to Calvary for the rest of their lives. Jesus took in His hands bread and He said “This is My Body given up for you. He took simple table wine and said “This is a cup of My Blood.” He said that in the Upper Room and the next day, within 24 hours on the Cross, He said with His Body, “This is My Body given up for you. This is My Blood poured out for you.” This is my life poured out for you. So that every single time a priest takes a piece of ordinary bread in his hands and says “This is My Body given up for you. This is My Blood poured out for you,” and he offers that to the Eternal Father, we are at Calvary. Christ died once but Christ gave us access into the one sacrifice to the Eternal Father through the Holy Mass.
The reality is that music, preaching, the reception of Our Lord and Holy Communion, community, beauty and giving to the Lord can all happen outside of Mass. I have had some of my most powerful prayer experiences with music outside of the context of Mass. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with music brings me to tears and I can just feel the presence of Jesus in amazing ways. I’ve heard people preach outside of the context of Mass. I’ve heard lay people that make priests look terrible and horrible as preachers outside of the context of Mass that have converted my heart. I’ve had experiences of community outside of Mass and I, on a regular basis every single week, give people Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion outside of Mass in hospitals, in their homes. I walk into beautiful churches all the time while I’m not celebrating Mass.
The mass, my brothers and sisters, is Calvary. The reason we come to Mass is because we want to go to Calvary. If there was a time machine and you could set the date and time of that machine to any day or time in the history of our world Good Friday at three o’clock would be the first date and time that I would put in because I would want to stand on Mount Calvary with our Blessed Mother and with Saint John the beloved apostle. And that’s what every Mass is. That’s why many of us go to Mass every single day because we want to know, we want to see, we want to be there, we want to participate. We come to Mass when there’s no music, when there’s no preaching, we come to Mass when there’s bad preaching or bad music. We come to Mass even when we can’t receive Holy Communion because it is Calvary and it matters.
It matters because the Mass teaches us how to love. What’s wrong with our world is that people don’t know that the Mass is Calvary and so they don’t know how to love. What does the Mass teach us? It teaches us how to love. What is the Mass? The Mass is Jesus saying “This is My Body given up for you.” “This is My blood poured out for you.” This is My life poured out for you. What is every husband supposed to say to his wife? “This is my body given up for you.” What is every wife supposed to say to her husband? “This is my life poured out for you.” What is every child supposed to say to their parents? “This is my body given up for you.” This is my life poured out for you. We learned that at Mass, we learned that from the Master hanging from the Cross. And that’s how the world is supposed to live.
I invite you to close your eyes right now and call to mind those that you love. And please repeat after me “This is my body given up for you.” “This is my life poured out for you.” I want you to call to mind those that you struggle with, those that you find hard to love, and please repeat after me. “This is my body given up for you.” This is my life poured out for you. I want you to see the face of Jesus and He’s hanging on the Cross, and there’s sweat and there’s blood and our Blessed Mother is crying, and you can see John the beloved disciple. And kneeling at the foot of the Cross, we say to Jesus, “This is my body given up for you.” This is my life poured out for you.
You see my brothers and sisters the Mass is Calvary and Jesus gave us access to Calvary at the Last Supper. And that’s what every Mass is. And if it is true that every Mass is Calvary, then bring on the music, because should we not sing the praises of the Lord at the most important and beautiful moment in the history of salvation? Bring on the preaching because should we not better understand and better enter into what is the sacrifice of our Lord and our Savior? May we enter into communion, may we receive His Body and Blood poured out for us out of love on the Cross and may we gather as a people. May we gather as a Church. May we offer not just our finances but our entire lives. And if it is Calvary, should it not be celebrated in the most beautiful of places to direct our minds and our hearts to the beauty Who is God Himself.
Thanks be to God for preaching and for Communion and for the Blessed Sacrament. Thanks be to God for music. Thanks be to God for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You know this is why people have Mass intentions said. People don’t have Mass intentions said dependent upon who is playing music or who’s preaching or whether the church is beautiful. They have Mass intentions said because the Mass is Calvary and we bring to Calvary, we bring to the Cross the names of our deceased loved ones. We bring to the Cross what’s in our heart. We bring to the Cross the conversion that we want in our own lives and the lives of others. And thus at this time of war we bring to the Cross our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine. We bring to the Cross their lifeless bodies. We bring to the Cross those living in fear. We bring to the Cross those defending our freedom and we bring to the Cross our enemies and those who bring hate into our world. And we give them to Jesus because it is Calvary.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, why do you come to Mass? Why do you come to Church? May it be for the sacrifice that changes the world, that’s changed our lives. May the sacrifice of Calvary represented for us today bring us hope and may it change our lives and may it bring peace.