One day, a couple went out camping. Both found themselves awake at 3:00 a.m., gazing at the stars sparkling in the night sky. The wife felt extra romantic. She squeezed her husband’s hand and asked, “Honey, what do you see?”
The man said “I see stars.”
“And what does that mean?” she asked, cuddling up to him. With the modulated tone of a professor’s voice, he said, “Astronomically, there are one hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way galaxy, representing one hundred billion solar systems. And even if light travels at 299,792 kilometers per second, the nearest star is 4.3 light years away. So what you see now is how the stars appeared years ago…”
The wife folded her arms and told him icily, “That’s not what I meant.” Her husband frowned. “Uh… What did you mean, honey?”
“Never mind. Good night.” she faced the other way and went back to sleep.
Sometimes, we just don’t get it.
SOMETIMES WE DON’T GET IT
The most important part of the Mass, the climax, the highest point, is called the Eucharistic Prayer. That happens after the Offertory, when we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord…” and all the way to the Consecration, when the priest raises the host and wine before us.
And like the husband in my story above, we, too, don’t get it.
There’s a romantic moment there where God gives Himself to us in great love, we miss it. Because we only see the ritual, the bread, the wine, the words – but not the meaning.
Four great wonderful things happen at this point of the Mass.
- Heaven comes down on earth.
- The past becomes present.
- The bread becomes flesh, the wine becomes blood.
- And you’re called to change your life.
I. HEAVEN COMES DOWN ON EARTH
At every Mass, heaven comes down on earth.
Look at the exact words used in the Eucharistic Prayer…
“Now with angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven, we sing the unending hymn of Your praise… Holy, Holy, Holy…”
“Father,… grant also to us, Your children, to enter into our heavenly inheritance in the company of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Your apostles and saints…”
When you attend Mass, the eyes of your faith should no longer see the ceiling of the church. The eyes of your faith should see heaven open up.
You should glimpse the clouds breaking open, like two curtains opening up to a grand stage, and the an explosion of brilliant light – for through that opening in the clouds, you should see God the Father seated on His throne, surrounded by the holy saints of God numbering in the thousands and hundreds of thousands, a myriad angels numbering in the millions…
That’s what you should see at every Mass.
I repeat: Mass is heaven on earth!
II. PAST BECOMES PRESENT
Remember Michael J. Fox in the movie Back to the Future?
That concept has been a favorite for Hollywood. I can’t count the number of movies I’ve watched that are fascinated with having a time machine. All you had to do was hop into it – and zap! – you get transported into another age.
Unbelievably, the Mass is something like that.
Why? Because the Eucharist is supposed to be a mysterious remembering of the death of Jesus. But the Mass is so powerful, it’s not just a remembering.
It’s not like looking at some old photo album or watching a wedding video.
In the mystery of the Mass, the past becomes present. You’re actually transported into that event, time and place. Here’s what it means: Your eyes of faith should see Jesus hanging on the cross during Consecration, giving Himself to you. At every Mass, the altar table becomes Golgotha, the broken host becomes His broken body hanging on the dirty cross of Calvary, the wine becomes His blood gushing out from His wounds.
III. TRUE PRESENCE
What is the host? It’s a piece of wafer, made of flour and water, cut and shaped into one-inch diameter circles, baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in massive ovens and then placed in plastic containers, sold on the shelves of religious stores.
The approximate price for each wafer? Ten centavos.
Be honest with me. If you see a 10-centavo coin on the sidewalk, would you actually stop, bend over and pick it up?
I don’t think so.
That wafer, financially is worth nothing.
But that 10-centavo wafer, at some point at Mass, becomes the most priceless thing in the world. It actually becomes the Flesh and Blood of Jesus – Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End.
It becomes the Author of Life, the Lion of Judah, the Bright Star of the Morning, the Lamb of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Why do I believe this? For one thing, the Bible says so.
My protestant friends believe in the literal interpretation of the Word – except in this one instance. They don’t believe that when Jesus says, “This is my Body, this is my Blood,” He means just that.
Friends, the Eucharist is not a symbol of Jesus.
It is Jesus. But honestly? I don’t think we Catholics believe in this truth as well.
IF WE REALLY BELIEVED
One day, two friends, a Communist and a Catholic, were talking.
They walked into a Catholic church while Mass was going on and they watched from the back. The Communist turned to the Catholic and asked, “What’s that white thing being raised by the priest?”
The Catholic, who studied his Catechism in grade school, answered, “That’s the Body of Jesus.”
“You mean to tell me that you Catholics believe that your God is that piece of bread?” the Communist asked.
“Yep, that’s what we believe,” the Catholic said.
The Communist frowned, looked around at those attending the Mass, and turned to his Catholic friend. “I don’t believe you.”
“Of course,” the Catholic smiled, “You’re an atheist.”
“No, no, no. I don’t believe that you guys believe that that piece of bread is God.”
“Huh? Of course, we believe. We’re Catholics.”
“If you really believe that that piece of bread is God – for crying out loud, the moment I enter this church, I would be on my knees. I would enter this church worshipping. I would cringe in terror and joy, swept away by the frightening truth that I am before the Almighty God. You, my friend, do not believe.”
Do you feel it in your belly? Ouch.
IV. YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Some tiime back, I met a priest who shared with me his fascinating story.
He said that as a priest in the Philippines, he gets to eat first. He gets the choicest cut in every dish. (“Hoy, yung atay ng pancit, sa pari! Yung tiyan ng bangus, para kay Father ‘yan.”) And unfortunately, he also gets the best drinks in the party.
Soon, he told me that he became an alcoholic.
From personal experience, he said that a drunk no longer acts human but acts like an animal.
First, he becomes a monkey – laughing and prancing around.
Second, he becomes a dog – urinating everywhere.
Third, he becomes a parrot – talking endlessly even if no one is listening.
Finally, he becomes a pig – sleeping in his own vomit.
He recounted how he was trying to go back home to his convent after a drinking spree but couldn’t find his way back. A policeman approached him and the priest immediately said, “Please don’t arrest me!” But the policeman said, “Father, dalhin ko na kayo sa kumbento. May misa pa kayo mamaya.” It was so embarrasing, he wanted to change his life but he didn’t know how.
Then one day, someone invited him to attend a Life in the Spirit Seminar.
And from that moment, the priest changed his life dramatically. When I met him he had been sober for the past seven years.
EVERYTHING CHANGES FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
Here’s the truth: We always change.
Whether we like it or not.
The question is: Are we changing for the better or for the worse?
Like my priest friend said, we can become like animals.
Or we can become like God – loving, faithful, humble.
It’s really our choice.
And at every Mass, God gives us that choice.
THE MESSAGE OF THE MASS: YOU CAN BECOME LIKE JESUS
Did you know? There was a time when the bread offered at Mass was actually baked by the parishioners and the wine actually pressed and bottled by the churchgoers.
Imagine a family where the father buys the flour, the mother pours it in a pan, the kids knead it together and put it in the oven. And they wrap it in brown paper, bring it to Church and present it to the priest on the altar.
Wow. In a very tangible sense, it was really the offering of their lives.
It wasn’t just bread. It was their bread. The ingredients weren’t just flour and water – but their hands, their effort, their time, their laughter, their stories, their love.
Their life has been baked into the bread.
We don’t have that sense of offering the bread anymore today.
Remember that the bread was originally our offering to God.
It symbolized our ordinary lives. Including our weaknesses.
But in a blink of an eye, that bread becomes Jesus.
Through the Mass, Jesus is telling me that my ordinary life – like that bread – can become holy and beautiful and glorious, too.
Here’s the message of the Mass: If God can change ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, He too can change your ordinary life into the image and likeness of Jesus.
That is why the Mass is the essence of the entire Gospel.
The Mass is saying, Jesus will transform your life.
And that my friends, is the greatest miracle in the world.
-Chapter 3 of The Greatest Miracle in the World by: Bo Sanchez