Let Us Raise The Roof
While on vacation and attending the Saturday evening vigil Mass a couple of weeks ago, I was humbled and moved by the participation of the faithful in attendance. The responses were not only clearly audible, but I sensed a tone of sincerity as well. The participation of the assembly in singing was equally impressive. Musically, there was an organist and a cantor, neither in view of the congregation; but despite this, it sounded as if everyone in church was singing – and singing like they meant every word. As I do not experience this every time I pray the Mass, I wondered … what is going on here that is making this difference?
As Mass progressed, the readings for the day gave me a clue. In the first reading from Isaiah it is written, “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the Lord” (Isaiah 45: 5-6). Clearly, this assembly surrounding me knew where their God ranked. Often, as I enter church for Mass, my mind is still buzzing with thoughts of those other “gods” in my life, those things that I think are so important that distract me from the real reason for praying the Mass. God is God, there is none besides Him. I should be at Mass to praise, worship, honor and thank the only God I should have in my life.
Psalm 96, the psalm for that day, opened my eyes even further. The response itself, “Give the Lord glory and honor,” says exactly what we should do at Mass. Going further into the Psalm, verses seven and eight, “Give to the Lord you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due His name,”strengthened even more my desire to be a part of this experience of praising, worshipping, honoring and thanking God each time I pray the Mass, just as I was feeling on this day.
As the readings continued I listened to the very familiar gospel from Matthew 22:15-21, which tells of the plot of the Pharisees to trick Jesus with their question about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ response, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” heightened my awareness of the praise, worship, honor and thanksgiving that I owe to God. Should not the praise I owe God be my focus as I enter the doors of my parish church, just as it was obvious that this was the focus of the people in this assembly?
So where do I start? How do I make the change? If I am to be honest, I will need to make a conscious effort when preparing to pray the Mass. I will admit that the words, “Well, I really did not get much out of Mass today” have crossed my lips or been in my thoughts more than a few times. This experience has helped me to more clearly see that it is really up to me to make my experience of praying the Mass a positive thing. My focus as I pray should be to praise, worship, honor and thank God for everything. If I am to “get something” out of Mass, it will naturally come from the effort I put forth to praise God. God is fully present in the Word and the Eucharist, but I have to deliberately open my heart to be aware of God’s presence and to praise Him; and it is that which will enable me to “get something” out of Mass.
With the many other “gods” in my life, this is certainly not going to happen without a deliberate effort on my part. It is much like someone going to a gym to exercise. The person sits there for an hour looking at the equipment but then leaves without having put any effort into working out. Should the person be surprised that her or she “did not get anything” out of the trip to the gym? I think not. The same applies to each of us as we enter the doors of our parish church to pray the Mass.
While I am certain that there are many individuals and parishes in our diocese that already very consciously practice what I long to experience, there are also many like myself who need to put forth a much greater effort to pray the Mass as it is meant to be prayed. Let us encourage one another and pray for each other that we can change our ways. Through a concerted effort, let us raise the roof on every parish church in the Diocese of Evansville by praising, worshipping, honoring and thanking God!
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.