I posted on the blog earlier a request for readers to comment why they won’t become Catholic. See that post here. As promised, I am responding to the reasons in individual posts. Today’s reason:
I guess I feel like the message is often overshadowed by all of the rituals.
Before I continue the post I think that you should read the comment here because it is a great comment. It is honest and sincere unlike so many of the other comments I often receive on the blog.
I think that it is important to remember what Mass is and what Mass isn’t. Mass is not a self-help seminar. Mass is a sacrifice. The focus of the Mass is not so much the readings or the homily, but the Eucharist. The Mass is about Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That one and singular and salvific sacrifice is made present to us in the Eucharist, or rather, we are made present to it.
Perhaps it has been poor catechesis that has caused us to forget this or fail to understand this. But at the Catholic Mass we receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We receive his Body and Blood and Soul and Divinity. Not symbols. Him. God. Physically. If we are Catholic do we believe that? Do we believe Jesus when he tells us this in John 6 and at the Last Supper and through St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians? Do we see the connection between the Passover and the Eucharist? Between the sacrificial lamb and the Lamb of God?
We may get a 40 minute sermon about following Christ at another denomination, but we get Jesus Christ at the Mass. Reception of Communion is the conjugal moment between the Bridegroom and the Bride, that is between Jesus and the disciple (you!). Which is better? Which is more real? Which is a true foretaste of heaven?
I won’t downplay the importance of the homily and the importance of the readings. They are an important part of the liturgy, and they are meant to aid the disciple. Discipleship, though, is ultimately about taking up our crosses and following Jesus, and so the most important part of the Mass is the Eucharist, the making present of Jesus’ cross and our communion with him. It doesn’t overshadow, but rather illuminates it. But we can only see this if we pray for the grace to see it and understand it. I invite anyone who is reading this who has fallen away from the Church, particularly if it is due in part to attraction to more “exciting” or “message-oriented” worship styles, to re-examine the teachings of the Church on the Eucharist and its connection to the Jewish Passover, and consider its prominent place in the life of a disciple and the worship of the Church!
Lastly, don’t forget, that outside of the Sunday Mass there are many opportunities for learning about becoming a better Christian: Bible studies, young adult groups, podcasts, local events (check to see if there is Theology on Tap in your local diocese: beer and discussion on Catholic theology: win-win), plus so much more!