The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy explains that Christ is present to us in four ways during the celebration of Mass:
- In the community celebrating
- In the Word proclaimed
- In the priest presiding
- In the Eucharist
First, we encounter Christ in the community of the faithful. Each one of us is made in God’s image and likeness. The kindness we show each other in Jesus’ name is a way we show kindness to Jesus Himself. Also, by joining with the community of the faithful, we are included in Jesus’ prayer of thanks and praise to God the Father. It is a holy encounter with Jesus and with our fellow Catholics.
Second, we encounter Christ in His Word. The readings proclaimed from Sacred Scripture are truly the words of everlasting life; a letter from God to His people. What is truly amazing is that, if we pray before Mass for guidance in a decision and we intently listen to the proclamation of Scripture and the subsequent homily, God will often speak to us in words that we most need to hear.
Third, we encounter Christ in the priest. Jesus chose to have His sacrifice re-presented on the altar by an ordained priest or bishop. When the priest speaks in the first person during the Consecration, saying, “Take this, all of you and eat of it, for this is My body,” Jesus is speaking through him. He stands in the person of Christ, the Eternal High Priest. Through the priest, we are able to benefit from the greatest event in history, the one that saved us from our sins and opened up for us the possibility of spending eternal life with God in heaven.
Fourth, and most importantly, we encounter Christ in the Eucharist. We take Jesus’ very Body and Blood within us, allowing Jesus to transform us. We become one with Him by receiving Him in Holy Communion, and through Him, with each other.
Because of these direct encounters with Christ at Mass, we seek to be active participants - not passive spectators - by listening to His Word, sharing in the Offering of the Gifts, joining in the singing, and proclaiming a reverent “Amen” (“truly, I believe”) when we worthily approach to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
While we may take a break from our work and school routines with summertime upon us, we can never take a break from responding to God’s love for us and give Him the praise and thanks that is His due. Don’t deny yourself the benefits of encountering Christ in the most profound ways possible on offer at Sunday Mass.
David J. Conrad