The longing to return to Mass
This article was originally written for JOY IN TRUTH, and can also be read HERE.
Augustinian Church in Vienna
Much like a little child, I seek after what has been forbidden to me. The past few months have been somewhat spiritually stagnant, mostly (but not always) as a result of suffering from PMDD and the impact it can have on my mental health. Getting to Mass can be a struggle, and I often find myself dragging my feet as I walk to church. As Mass was ‘taken away’ from me owing to the current crisis, my desire to be present drastically increased. I fear that I am not alone in this. The situation that the world currently finds itself in has rekindled a fire within many of us, but how long will this last? When we can finally get to Mass, will we be like the little child who no longer wants what it is given to it?
In Austria, we will be able to physically attend Mass from May 15th. While my initial reaction was one of joy, I started to question if there will be lasting changes in what I admit are often spiritually lazy ways. When I first joined the Church, I often felt a yearning deep within me to be with Jesus in daily worship. He was everything to me, and I was aware of how much He desired relationship with all of us. Much like a human relationship, this cooled in time. Moving to a big city also affected my inclination to get out of the apartment and go to church, and it was often an interior struggle to be present. “Is it really so important? Will God even care? I haven’t been to confession recently, so I can’t take communion anyway” were thoughts which clouded my head.
Yet, Mass is the most essential thing in the world. It is not merely representative of Jesus’ sacrifice – we are literally brought to the foot of the Cross. Scott Hahn insists that we go to heaven when we attend the Mass, irrespective of the quality of the music or preaching (and in any case, the purpose of Mass is not to entertain us). It is heaven on earth. When we grow to understand how we are made present at Calvary, we can better comprehend the famous Padre Pio quote:
“if we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass”.
How many of us would honestly risk their life as Padre Pio describes? Is there truly one of us reading this who can wholeheartedly answer ‘I would’? I certainly know that I, in my littleness, would not. I read the words above, and I appreciate them, but not fully. Yet, if we thirst for heaven, then there should be a longing for its presence which is made available to us on earth through the sacrifice of Mass. Not only that, but Jesus states in the gospel of John
“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”.
In attending Mass, we gain life that is more whole than the one Padre Pio says we should be willing to risk.
I ask myself, how is it possible to increase my willingness to be at Mass? The answer can only be to throw myself into Jesus’ arms and His mercy. He understands all of our weaknesses, and longs to be right there with us in those faults. Of course, there are practical things that we can do within our own homes which will encourage us to go to Mass such as spending more time in prayer or reading and contemplating the daily Gospel. Yet, we can also take a leap and put ourselves wholly into God’s hands. When we look at St Thérèse of Lisieux, we see that she struggled with spiritual dryness and even atheism towards the end of her short life. Like her, I know that I need to take the ‘elevator’ of Jesus’ arms, and rely solely on Him. If we allow Him in, allow His immeasurable mercy to work in us, like Thérèse, we can gain great spiritual strength. Let us be like little children in this way, and not like the child who throws a temper tantrum when it is denied something, and is completely indifferent when the opposite occurs.
It is time for me, for all of us, to take into our hearts the words of Psalm 27, and ask God to let us dwell in His presence, now and in eternity. When we give ourselves to Him and consent to let Him carry us, I believe we can overcome our feebleness and make our way to Mass.
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life
AUTHOR'S NOTE: the quote by St. Padre Pio is one that I have been thinking about for a while , long before the COVID-19 crisis. I don't believe we should use it in this context. Following government measures and social distancing out of love of neighbour is something I strongly believe in.
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