Being a n early riser, I usually went to daily Mass with my Dad form the time I was in kindergarten. Therefore, the greatest day of my life was when I celebrated and received my first communion. So caught up in the joyous wonder of being able to receive communion, I began to count the number of other people who received communion at weekday Mass. In those days we knelt at a communion rail and the priest would walk by and give communion. One day, much to my embarrassment, when the priest said, “The Body of Christ,” I replied, “Fourteen.” Much to my relief, he never noticed.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ to remind us that Jesus Christ is truly present when we celebrate the Eucharist. However, I sometimes wonder whether or not we are present when we are at Mass. Many times we are like my younger self who was paying more attention to the communion count than to who it was I was receiving. :Perhaps you can remember a time when you sat down for the first reading and the next thing you knew it was the sign of peace! What follows are some of the things we can do to help insure that we are present on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings.
PREPARE: Pray every day and let the Lord be part of our daily life so that when we gather we celebrate our relationship with God. Read the Sunday readings before you come to church, so that the tilled soil of your mind might better receive God’s Word.
GATHER: Greet people on the street, in the parking lot, at the dppr, or in the gathering area. Be hospitable to strangers. Greet Christ who is present in all believers. [Before Mass begins we ought to be silent as we sit in our pews so we and others can pray.)
PARTICIPATE: The Eucharist is not something we watch, it is something we do. We worship God not only with our minds, but our bodies as well. We stand, kneel, sit, process, exchange the sign of peace, listen, uses our voices, and receive the Eucharist. My Dad who sang dreadfully once said, “God gave me this voice, and I am giving it back to God.”
PAY ATTENTION: Put down those infernal missalettes and listen. I once heard a deacon tell of the three gifts of the magi — gold, frankenstein, and myrrh. Almost no one heard the mistake because they were reading along in the missalette. The Word of God comes alive when we listen to someone proclaiming it well.
PRAY THE WORDS: All too often we mumble the words without thinking about what they mean. Sometimes a visitor who spoke no English could conclude that the idea was to see how fast we can say the words. By the way, priests can be just as guilty. How often do we hear priests speed through his prayers and say them like he didn’t really mean it.
STAY or GET INVOLVED: Be a server, reader, extraordinary minister of the eucharist, greeter, usher, cantor, choir member, musician or gift bearer. If you have never been asked, volunteer.
EXPECT SOMETHING TO HAPPEN: In all the sacraments God tries to touch our lives, but can do so only if we are open. James reminds in the New Testament, “Draw close to the Lord and the Lord will draw close to you.” (4::8)
If we prepare, gather, participate, and truly expect something to happen, Jesus Christ will not only be present in the eucharist, but we will be present, attentive and aware as well.