18 June 2006

The Mass is All I Have

The Mass is all I have, because it is all I need in order to live.

That’s what the Christian says, because that’s what the Christian believes.

Now, I’ll grant that it sounds radical—like a gross overstatement. It certainly sounds pious, but it also sounds like it steps beyond all notions of reality—like an escape from the real world into some super-religious world of zealots and fanatics. But before you dismiss that little sentence, consider what it says.

The Mass is not simply some ritual, some spiritual exercise that you go through because that’s how you were raised. When you boil it down, the Mass is two things—the deliverance of Jesus Himself in word and in deed. In the preaching, the Spirit delivers the actual words of Christ into your heart and mind. And in the Blessed Sacrament, the same Spirit delivers the true Body and Blood of Christ into your flesh and bones.

Both those things—the Lord's Word and the Lord's Supper—go inseparably together. If you hear but don’t receive, or if you receive but never hear, you’re getting half of what Our God and Lord gives in the Mass. Now some may honestly believe that half is good enough. But it’s only half—half of Our Lord, because it is half of the way He delivers Himself into you.

The Mass is all I have means that the Mass is all the Lord gives in answer to your prayer. You pray “Give us this day our daily bread, forgive our sins, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil—protect, strengthen, guide and comfort us.” A fine prayer, indeed! And where does Our Lord answer it? At the Holy Mass. And to what extent does He answer it there? Fully, completely, without short-changing you one bit.

The Mass is where the Lord daily loads you with benefits. For what is better than the Lord’s forgiveness and compassion? And what is better than being so intimately united to God that He comes and makes His home in you? He dwells in you, and you dwell in Him. That doesn’t happen in the signs you look for, or the feeling of God’s presence that you get. That happens nowhere but at the Mass. For there, and only there, is where He ties Himself to you.

When you push it further and say The Mass is all I need in order to live—now you’ve said that nothing else in life matters. Not only because everything else pales in comparison, or because life is not worth living without God’s love in Christ. But primarily because your life—and all life of whatever kind—depends solely and entirely on that love of God delivered into your very being. Without the Lord’s mercy delivered in the Gospel preaching and Gospel Sacraments, there is no life—for you, for the world. Without the Mass, nothing exists!

Isn’t that what Jesus says when He calls Himself the living Bread of Heaven and then says, “The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world”? And, just so you understand, He pushes it one step further when He adds, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

The Mass is all you need to live. That’s what Our Lord is saying. And He says it not as a theory or a spiritual truth. He says it to you, as the only truth worth believing. In fact, He says it so plainly and bluntly that, if you turn your back on it, you revert to hellish living and, ultimately, hellish death.

And so what else can you say in response to what Our Lord says? The Christian has only one thing left to say:

The Mass is all I have, because it is all I need in order to live.

First published in the Zion Trumpet, the official newsletter of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit.

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