We’ve been focusing on how we discern God’s will. Now I want to address the connection between God’s will and what happens in the Catholic Mass. I hope this will help those who want to have a more powerful experience when they participate in the Eucharist.
Millions of people have left the Catholic Church in the last 40 years or so. They might give a lot of reasons why they left, but I think it boils down to this: they didn’t think they were leaving anything of great value. Thankfully, millions more have remained in the Church, and yet one gets the sense that most of us who are still Catholic don’t fully appreciate the dynamics of the Mass and the power that is available to us in the Eucharist.
My own opinion is that there’s one important aspect of the Mass that does not receive adequate attention: it’s the bringing up of the gifts, the bread and wine, at the beginning of what we call the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, St. Paul writes: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
The bread and wine that are brought forth at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist represent the lives and sacrifices of the faithful, symbolizing the action of surrendering ourselves to the Father. As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), #78, describes it:
“…[T}he meaning of the [Eucharistic] prayer is that the entire congregation of the faithful should join itself with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice.”
The GIRM #79 continues this emphasis on the participation of the faithful:
“The Church’s intention, however, is that the faithful not only offer this spotless Victim but also learn to offer themselves, and so day by day to be consummated, through Christ the Mediator, into unity with God and with each other, so that at last God may be all in all.”
Eucharistic Prayer IV contains language by which the priest and the congregation pray that the gifts will be carried by God’s holy Angel to His altar on high “so that all of us who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.”
Finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1368, captures the offering of the Eucharist in the following terms:
“The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value.”
So, to put it in even plainer English, when the bread and wine are placed on the altar, we should consciously be putting our lives, with its joys, gifts, challenges, sufferings, failings and needs on the altar with the bread and wine. As we do this, we should be praying, in our own words, something like this: “Lord, I am surrendering my life, my whole life, to you. I ask that my life be united with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and offered to the Father. Father, I ask that you accept the gift of my life and breathe into my life the power and grace of your divinity. Help me to know your will, give me the courage to carry it out and give me the grace of your divine power to transform my life and draw me closer to you, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit.”
Depending on what is going on in our life, we can be even more specific. For many months at daily Mass I placed our need to sell our home on the altar. When I had teen-aged children who were creating serious challenges, I placed their lives on the altar, along with my need for guidance and patience. I can assure you that God was faithful in his response.
Here’s the bottom line. When we do this, when we participate in the Mass consciously and actively, putting our life on the altar and asking that it be merged with the life of Jesus Christ, God honors our gift, makes it holy and brings His guidance and supernatural grace into our lives. Our lives will never again be the same. We will know and experience a new sense of direction, a new grace, a new power, in our lives. And we will know that it came from the Eucharist.