When I look out into the congregation each week at Mass, I don’t know what’s going through your minds, what kind of a day you’ve had, if you have just finished working a double shift, if the baby kept you up all night, or if you just had an argument with your husband or wife. I realize that we all come to Mass from different places with varying backgrounds and multiple levels of understanding. Hopefully, however, we enter the church building with a singular purpose in mind: to worship God.
Despite the many other things that we may “experience” in church—from the music, to the preaching, to the fellowship—we are ultimately present to worship God.
Since I was born in 1960, I was not raised with the customs, traditions and rituals present in the Mass before the Second Vatican Council. I heard stories of grandma praying her rosary while the priest did what he did at the altar with his back to the people. When I was old enough to begin to understand what was going on in church, the altars were being moved from the walls, the priest now faced the people, the liturgy was in the vernacular, and the congregation was invited to sing, to interact, and to participate more fully.
In either scenario, I believe that we were still there to worship God.
This brings me to my current point. In order to worship God, it involves an act of the will. In our contemporary understanding of the liturgy, worship seems to imply some kind of active participation and not just a passive being there. The religious sister who taught me in eighth grade used to comment that we looked like bumps on a log when we just sat there and did nothing. (Bumps on a log—never quite forgot that expression.)
In order to give God our all at Mass, I think a few questions are pertinent: When we come to Mass, do we make a conscious effort to worship God? How actively do we participate during Mass? Do we make the responses? Do we see the Mass as a prayer? Do we attempt to sing? Do we put our heart, mind, soul and strength (See Mk. 12:30) into our humble attempt to worship God?
Please don’t get me wrong. I am very happy whenever you come to Mass. Each week, however, I subconsciously long for those packed Masses like we see during Christmas and Easter. I want to see vibrant congregations with active participation. Above all else, I genuinely desire all of us to fall more passionately in love with Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
As a priest, I am acutely aware that I stand in persona Christi at Mass (and in the other sacraments) and all that I have is because of Christ Jesus and what I do is for Christ Jesus. True worship really has very little to do with me personally and my particular wants and desires. Worship that is fitting and proper has everything to do with the love and adoration that we give the persons of the Divine Trinity. True worship expresses our love and gratitude to Jesus who suffered and died on the cross for you and me.
We are privileged as Catholics to worship God freely in our society. God certainly deserves our very best attempt.
I think that God warrants a much better job than what those bumps on the log can do.
Fr. Ed Namiotka