Our pastor said in a homily that the Eucharist makes us more like Christ. It transforms us. Well, I go to Mass every Sunday, and I find it a rather boring routine. It’s always the same thing, week after week. I’m just as impatient and critical as ever. I don’t think I’ve changed one bit. Is there something the matter with me?
— NOT FEELING IT
We all have moments of self-doubt in our lives. I would propose, however, that more sacramental instruction would improve your relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. This knowledge would prepare you to be not only physically present in church but also fully aware of what is truly happening. One tool that could help is the Missalette Living with Christ, which offers many prayerful hints on participating in the Mass. In any case, I hope that what follows will encourage you to look more deeply into the beautiful presence of the Lord in our lives.
Vatican II encourages us to participate actively in the Eucharist. Some have interpreted this exclusively as standing, sitting, kneeling, singing together, and responding to prayers. While these are necessary, we can do all of them without actually praying. They can become automatic and routine and done without thinking. Consequently we are only physically present in the Church, not really participating fully in the Eucharist. Active participation requires our whole being: body, mind, heart, and soul.
The reason we attend Mass is because of what Jesus does for us, not what we do for him. Jesus loves us enough to give his life for our salvation. “In the Eucharist, Christ makes present to us anew the sacrifice offered once for all on Golgotha” (Blessed John Paul II). Something very special happens at every Mass. We’re no longer bound by time and space. Christ makes present to us here and now his sacrifice on the Cross in the sacramental signs of bread and wine. That certainly merits our attention.
Jesus also makes himself present by his Word, which he proclaims at every Eucharist. So each new day brings us a different message from Christ. By listening attentively to these readings—with our hearts and not just our ears—we’ll realize that Jesus is offering us suggestions on how to lead our lives. Whether he is speaking to us through a good or a bad reader, he will nourish us if we pay attention to his word and not let our minds wander. Thus, through his word Jesus is directing us personally today. Could we find a better guide?
On this point I would suggest that you arrive five or ten minutes before the beginning of Mass. Take that time to recollect yourself by putting whatever is troubling you into the hands of Jesus. Ask him to grant you the peace of mind necessary to participate prayerfully in these sacred mysteries.
After the Liturgy of the Word comes the great transformation: the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Please note that Jesus says, “This is my body which will be given up for you” and “This is my blood which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” By this action he is transforming what is essentially an act of violence and hatred (his painful death) into an act of love and self-giving. Love conquers violence and death, for love is stronger than death. The Resurrection reveals this truth. Throughout this whole process, Christ becomes a life-giving spirit to all those who believe in him.
Christ shares his burning love with us in the Eucharist, especially at Communion. He wants us to be conformed to him. As St. Paul says: “Until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). He desires to help us become more like him. “For the effect of our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive” (St. Leo the Great). This will happen only with our full cooperation: body, mind, heart, and soul.
I believe that, by prayer and the study of the Eucharist, you’ll come to a deeper understanding of Christ’s great love for you, so that he can conform you to himself.