Preparing Our Hearts For Mass

My dear friends,

Let’s reflect further on the importance of coming to Mass prepared—the more immediate preparation that takes place from the evening before to the beginning of Mass. The whole purpose for preparing well is so that we can participate more sincerely and actively in the Mass, and be better disposed to receive both the Word of God and the Eucharist in a way that helps deepen our conversion to Christ and strengthen our love and union with one another.

One way we can prepare for Mass is to cultivate a right intention. Why am I going to Mass? While we want our motive to be love, sometimes we can revert to going out of mere duty, obligation, or habit. The following prayer, or one like it, can help us cultivate love as the dominating motive for going to Mass:

“Dear Jesus, tomorrow You invite me to Mass to hear Your words and to receive You as the Life of my soul in Holy Communion through the gift of Your precious Body and Blood. It is Your great love for me, which You renew so powerfully and personally in every Mass, that draws me to Your altar. May I always come to Mass purely for love of You in order to thank You and receive what I need to stay close to You and live my life through You.” Amen

Besides our intention, it is also good for us to examine the condition of our relationship with Jesus, to reflect honestly on whether we have done anything since our last communion to seriously break or wound our communion with the Lord. If we have, God’s mercy has provided another Sacrament that both heals and restores us to communion: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is true that we acknowledge and confess our sinfulness in the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass–and God does indeed forgive us anytime we ask Him with humble, repentant hearts. But Reconciliation was instituted by Christ as the Sacrament best suited to fully heal and restore the communion that one loses with God and with the Church through mortal sin.  The word “mortal” means “deadly,” referring to grave sins committed with full knowledge and consent, which actually withdraw the soul from grace, leaving a person in a state of spiritual death.

For a Catholic to receive communion, they must be in what the Church calls “the state of grace,” a state of ‘communion,’ which is another way of saying that one’s heart must be in a state of friendship with Jesus and open to others. As the pastor of my first assignment put it: “one must be in communion to receive communion.” The blessing of living in the cities is that there are so many Catholic churches close by, and therefore several options available for families and individuals to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation as often as needed.

What will be clear throughout our reflections on the Mass is how everything we do to both prepare for Mass and participate in it, is based upon what we believe. Preparing for Mass will only make sense as one comes to believe that Mass is a privileged encounter with the Living God in Word and Sacrament and a true participation in the saving mystery of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Once this is deeply understood and believed, it would be difficult to walk into Mass casually and unprepared. I am moved by how many of you try to come early to Mass to pray and prepare your hearts. While this is understandably more challenging for families with young children or for those with serious health conditions, it is still good to make what efforts we can to take a few moments to recollect ourselves before Mass. May God bless all of us with great faith that we would be compelled by love to prepare well for the greatest moment of the week: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; the Banquet of Christ’s Body and Blood.

God love you,
Fr. Steven

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