“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom...I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
Even at the worst possible Holy Mass, Jesus is present; I think we often undervalue this truth. Even if the music is awful, the homily is long and boring, and the people around us are rude and distracting, Jesus still shows up. As long as the priest can muster the bare minimum of intent and say the words of Institution with a modicum of devotion, Jesus becomes present in the Eucharist, and we are fed by Him Who Is the Bread of Heaven. Jesus is the one who makes Holy Mass special. He is the one we come to encounter. The validity of the Mass does not depend on the charisma of the ministers or the entertainment value of the rites. If we simply “do this in memory of me,” Jesus is there.
We can complain all we want about “not getting anything out of Mass,” but if we receive Jesus Himself both aurally in the reading of the Gospel and bodily in the Eucharist, then we have been fed in the most profound possible way. What matters most for our individual souls is what we put into our attendance at Holy Mass. Are we adequately prepared to receive Him? Have we read and meditated upon Sunday’s Gospel ahead of time? Have we sufficiently quieted our bodies and minds to hear and heed His Holy Word? Are we willing to find something worthy to absorb even in a sub-par homily and give the preacher’s words the benefit of doubt and the most charitable interpretation in our own minds? Jesus is present there; are we willing and able to receive Him in the humblest of appearances?
I have been blessed to celebrate beautiful Masses in hotel rooms, RV’s, conference halls, and at camp sites in the wilderness, amidst the distractions of construction noise and the beautiful wordless songs of happy children, both when I am clear-headed and when exhausted and distracted by the trials and sorrows you have shared with me. No matter how humble the setting or how unworthy the priest, Jesus shows up. He was willing to be born in a stable and laid in a manger; are we willing to receive Him in similar humility? The core of our faith is not an argument but an encounter; our faith rests “not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
Peace in Christ, Today’s Readings: Is 58:7-10; Is 58:7-10