Get Real: Pray the Mass
I read escapist novels – like fairy tales and westerns – to escape. Duh. But how does it happen?
The story puts me into a different world. An unreal one, where death is comic-book death, where there are superhuman helpers, and the good guy always wins. I can get out of the real world for a while, lose myself in a different one. Escape.
I dawned on me: this is what Mass is, except the unreal world we get into there is the real one.
This world is true and false reality. The ground is solid under my feet – as long as God keeps willing it into existence. Of itself it is nothingness. So are other people. So am I.
My relationship with others, no matter how deep, still doesn’t reach the core of their being. I don’t know any of them as they really are. Nor do I know myself.
I feel alive. I am alive – tentatively. But what feels like life has already ended in death, if I include the future. I am more “living” than “alive.” It is a passing condition.
Things give me pleasure. I think of it as happiness. Money and health make me feel secure. Approval and success make me feel I am worth something. Sirach said it like it is: “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity!”
Now let’s go to Mass.
From the moment we enter church we are in a different world. God’s world. What is real is God: Father, Son and Spirit. What is real about us is that we share in the divine life of God (the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”). We are forever. We are divine. That is reality.
At Mass our conscious connection with others is the mystery of “communion in the Holy Spirit.” It is not sociological Catholicism. We are one as the Father, Son and Spirit are one (John 17:11-21). That is a mystery. But it is reality. One that will last forever.
We praise God, calling to mind who he is: “For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High!” That restores perspective. That is reality.
We listen to God’s words read at Mass. They clash with the words of the culture, the words we see and hear all day. But God’s words are true. They are reality.
Jesus Christ becomes present in the act of offering himself on the cross. It is a “real presence.” Calvary is present to us. We are present on Calvary. We are united to Jesus, participating in his act of sacrifice. That is reality. It is the reality of our lives. .
At Baptism we “presented our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.” We were incorporated into Christ’s body on the cross, died in Christ and rose to be his living body on earth (Romans 6:3-4; 12:12). The truth about our being is that we “were buried with Christ in baptism, and were also raised with him” and “seated with him in the heavenly places” (Colossians 2:12; Ephesians 2:6). That is what we celebrate at Mass. That is reality.
We were “reborn,” “raised with Christ” out of the “womb tomb” of Baptism, so that we might “walk in newness of life.”
“So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). That is reality.
At Communion time we enter in preview into the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Christ the “Bread of heaven” has entered visibly into each one. For a brief moment all divisions are forgotten, all resentments put aside, all offenses forgiven. We are one as we will be in heaven – and, in the eternal “now” of God, already are. That is reality.
Now “the Mass is ended. You are sent forth.” We are sent back into the “real” world of shadow permanence, of wavering focus, false perceptions and phony promises. The world which lures us to forget who we are.
But we are sent back to remember. And to proclaim. We go out to bring the whole world into reality, into the celebration that lets us “escape” into the world that is real.
We “Go in peace.”