As a newly ordained priest, amazingly, it has already been four weeks of being a priest! I’m having to adjust to saying Mass regularly and get adjusted to how to celebrate the mass and all of the hand gestures and everything else. As a new experience, it can be challenging to enter into the mystery of what I am celebrating; I’m so focused on making sure I do everything correctly it can be hard to enter into the Mass prayerfully. It is still a prayerful experience, but I don’t focus on the more profound significance of what I’m doing. Instead, I focus on what I’m doing so I don’t mess up. What adds on to this is I’m a bit of a perfectionist. However, there is one moment of the Mass that I’m able to enter into the mystery of the Mass and truly prayerfully consider what I am doing. Pay close attention to what I do when I elevate the host, I will gaze intently on the host, even if just for a few seconds. At that moment, I’m not only reminding myself Jesus himself is present in the host but too it is a moment of adoration and worship. The great mystery that through my shaky hands, Jesus is made present in the Eucharist!
My hope is as a priest; I will always have this same reverence and adoration for the blessed sacrament when I say mass. I will celebrate Mass every day, and because of that, the Mass one day for me will become second nature. There will be many parts of the Mass that I must read now that I will be able to do from memory. There is nothing wrong with that, but the danger for me is that I may lose my focus on the mystery of what is present and what is taking place.
The same can be true for God’s presence in our own lives. God is present to us in many ways, but it can be easy for us to tune him out. Where I live right now, there are train tracks within a few hundred feet of the rectory. The first couple nights I was here every time a train passed I would notice it, however now unless I’m outside or I intentionally listen for it, I won’t notice it.
If we are not careful in our own lives, the same can happen with us and the holy presence of God in our own lives. God is present to us in his word, in the sacred scripture. At Mass, when we hear the lector, the priest proclaim the Gospel, we are not only hearing that person’s voice, but mysteriously God himself is speaking to us. The same is true when we read the scriptures. It’s easy for me to tune out the readings before the Gospel, even if it is because I’m thinking over my homily that I’m about to preach. We shouldn’t forget this is God’s word speaking to us.
Mysteriously too God is present to us in our interactions with our brothers and sisters. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. When we see someone else, no matter who they are, no what they look like or their background, they reflect God himself. Do we notice that when we see the poor person begging for money?
God, in the deepest way known to man, is present in the Eucharist. The most prayerful moment for me at every mass is when I am holding up the host and then the chalice when I gaze upon Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. God himself is present to us and gives himself to us in the form of bread and wine to redeem us.
How do we come forward to receive the Eucharist? Do we recognize that it is Jesus himself present to us in bread and wine? Are we grateful to him that he would allow us to receive him despite our sinfulness and our shortcomings? Do we enter into the great sacrifice of the Mass, acknowledging in our hearts what is taking place in front of our eyes? I have to admit I’m not always fully aware of what is going on and I can easily allow myself to be distracted, but in my gaze, on the Eucharist, I try and remind myself of what truly is taking place.
Finally, we have an excellent opportunity (here) at Ascension of our Lord Church. As you probably know there is an adoration chapel downstairs where Jesus himself is always present. We place him in the monstrance where you can gaze on him, in the same way, I do at Mass. Even if you can’t make adoration, you can still sit in God’s presence at any Catholic Church. Jesus is always present in the tabernacle in every Catholic Church.
God is present to us in many ways, and we can come to him and adore him in the ways that he is present. We can find a quiet place in our own homes and sit down and read the scripture and meditate over it. If you have the time, come to Mass earlier and sit in the silent presence of God in the tabernacle. Also if you have time the adoration chapel (downstairs) at Ascension, God is daily present to us in many ways, may we not tune out his presence and focus on it so we can continue to grow in holiness and come to salvation.