God was on my lips and in my heart. I had just received communion, and as I made my way back to the pew, the choir began singing, "And I don’t see my brokenness anymore, when I’m seated at the table of the Lord…” (Leeland). Tears started flowing down my cheeks while I prayed for that healing, for peace, and for wisdom. I'm not sure what it was that brought me to tears- whether it be the beautiful song that expressed what I needed to hear at that very moment, Jesus in the Eucharist who I consumed just minutes before, or the prayerful community that surrounded me while I sobbed. Maybe it was a mixture of all three.
I've never been so moved at mass like I had been that day. I still remember the time when going to church was like going to the dentist- you went because you had to. I never understood the varied positions we were expected to follow, the prayers we were expected to have memorized, or the "production" that we were expected to watch at the altar. It was all a mystery to me, one that I had no desire to solve.
God, however, often chooses to speak to us through traditional means like the Holy Mass, the Sacraments, the common prayers recited in the rosary, and other practices that have been given to us by our Catholic predecessors through apostolic succession. The Apostles were the closest friends and most devoted followers of Jesus. They walked with Him. They ate with Him. They laughed with Him, cried with Him, and suffered with Him. It is through these Apostles that we were passed down the teachings, practices, prayers and life of Christ.
Once I took the time to reflect on this truth, I realized that the reason why I was apathetic to all of these traditions was because I did not recognize their significance or meaning. The mass is a celebration of God's Love for all of us; the Sacraments give us the grace to be made new in Baptism, forgiven in Reconciliation, nourished in Communion, strengthened in Confirmation, united in Matrimony, ordained in Holy Orders, and healed in the Anointing of the Sick; the traditional prayers allow Catholics all over the world to unite together expressing the same desire to worship, thank, adore, petition, and love God; and all the other practices are just different ways of helping us draw nearer to Him.
During Lent in 2009, I "gave up" my mornings and decided that I would go to daily mass. To say it was a struggle would not give my experience justice. I had to fight every temptation to prevent myself from hitting the snooze button at 6am and rolling back into my warm covers. There were days when I would rush in only to have missed half of the mass and coming during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Once I got accustomed to waking up early and participating in the daily mass, I became more fond of it. I craved the peace it gave me after every mass. The readings helped me uncover how God worked in the lives of the people in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The homily spoke to me directly as the priest explained the meaning of the readings and expanded on how it relates to us now. The Our Father reminded me that I was never alone and that the people beside me were on the same journey. I looked forward to consuming Jesus in the Eucharist as I sensed His closeness and great love for me, and the final blessing encouraged me to go out and share the love and mercy of God that was shown to me during the mass and throughout my whole life.
Every prayer said, every song that is sung, every Scripture passage that is read, every homily that is spoken, and every movement in the mass offer each one us an opportunity to encounter God.
When you go to mass or participate in any tradition of the Catholic faith, ask yourself, "God, what are you trying to tell me through this? How can I more actively participate in this mass? What is the meaning behind this tradition and how does this relate to my life now?"
May you hear His voice in the Liturgy, and may you be at peace knowing that He is near!