We sometimes forget what is pretty obvious. But sometimes what is common sense, may not be common after all.
So this post is a friendly reminder just in case we come to worship routinely.
1. Plan when to attend mass. Just as we schedule events in our calendars, affixing the date and time for mass means that we indeed intend to carry out a process. It tells us how important the mass is: it is the center of Christian life.
How important is it? The Eucharist is the central reference of all sacraments, prayers, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, devotions, mortifications, even our apostolates or outreach programs. The commandment to love God is first and foremost, and our love for our neighbors flows from it.
If a center is consciously abandoned, the whole Christian life collapses. Observe this. When something is not scheduled, we consciously make that event as an aside: we go whenever it is convenient to us, or whenever we have done everything else.
2. Keep in mind why you come to mass. There are many reasons why we attend the mass. Most of the time, we have an intention to pray for. For some, it is a time to gather oneself, whether to find a time to pick up scattered pieces of our lives, or to ask pardon for the sins that broke our relationships with God and with others. Or we come to mass to thank the Lord in adoration, to join our community in worship, or to be with the Lord as a friend who accompanies us. If we are able to identify the needs to be brought to the altar of God, the mass becomes more meaningful. By preparing our thoughts and intentions, we unite with the cross of Christ with our own crosses in our lives.
3. Pray on the way to mass. It excites and focuses our hearts for what we are about to do. It is like going to a movie: on the way, we become excited to know what we are about to see. Some of us have bought tickets way before its first screening. I remember Star Wars and for some of my students, Twilight.
4. Come to mass with a spirit of prayer. The mass is the summit and peak of all Christian prayer. And thus, we must keep in mind that coming to mass means going to a sacred place to pray. Being with our family, friends or loved one is secondary to being with God. Of course, we can pray anywhere, but in the mass, we come to worship with the community of God. And thus, it would help if our attention is not distracted by our gadgets: perhaps you can play religious or meditative music on your iPod or MP3 players. Use your gadgets to help put you in the mood for the sacred.
5. Intend to participate at mass. Say to yourself: “I will consciously and actively participate at mass today.” There are mainly two factors that make the mass attractive: the music and the homily. However, many people say that the mass is boring. There are choirs who do not enliven worship. Unfortunately, many choirs distract people from praying than leading the people to God. They perform with their vocal calisthenics than serve. The best choir is the “no choir” — you don’t hear the choir because everyone is singing. The worse choir is when you hear ONLY them singing.
The greatest factor that makes a mass bland is the priest. The mass is uninteresting because there are many boring priests: those who do not give stimulating homilies and those who talk forever; there are priests who do the mass sloppily and perform the rites without passion.
This, however, is the good thing if you find yourself in a “tasteless” mass: it is not entirely hopeless. Remember what Jesus said about we being the salt of the earth? This is the time to add flavor: we can spice it up. We can contribute to make the mass better. We can respond, sing, and keep a prayerful silence when it is appropriate especially during the readings and after taking communion.
The mass is a dialogue. Simple: would you like to date someone who doesn’t say anything? That would be a nightmare. A congregation that is not alive, affects everyone else. To behave at mass does not mean that we have to be like the statues of the saints. To behave well today means to participate. Honestly, I get to be excited by people who are alive; but my energies are down if the congregation are unresponsive. I tend to prepare my homilies because the people respond to what I say: negative or not. We affect everyone around us.
There is one good reason why we have to respond by answering, singing and keeping a prayerful composure. When we were baptized we share the common priesthood of Christ. At mass we practice the common priesthood together with the ordained. Thus, the mass is not the sole “show” of the priest, it is OUR mass. We practice our common priesthood when we participate.
And perhaps, when we do, the boring priest and the incompetent choir will be put to shame.
And we will have a meaningful worship.