The Mass: a “service”? A service for whom? -Homily
August 7, 2016
What is a religious service? Is it something a minister provides for people
to enjoy? I don’t think I am such a good entertainer, or that people come to
Mass because they are provided a “service,” like a fitness lesson or a haircut.
The Mass is not a service for the people, but a service for God. We go to Mass
not because we have time, but because it is our duty. But not the duty of an
employee or the duty of a slave… Let me explain a little bit more what is the reason we celebrate Mass.
And I will not say all the things that could be said, because there is no time.
I hope that you find helpful what I will say today, and that God tells
you the rest.
1. The first reason we come to Mass is because we want to give thanks to God
for his love. There are many things that show us the love of God. Each one of
us can think of so many blessings that he or she has received in life, in his
or her family, carrier, opportunities, events, trips, relationships, etc. But
there are two things in particular for which all of us need to be thankful: the
love of God manifested on the Cross, especially in the holy Eucharist we
receive, and the promise of eternal life. God loves us, and because of that he
gives us the opportunity of a perfect happiness, if we want to be his children
and behave as such. He bought us at the price of his blood. This is a great
kindness, it is a great gift. It means that we mean so much to God.
We may have had the experience of having done so much for people, or even
for our children, and not having being recognized as we had expected. Sometimes
people do not even say thank you, or they do not even pick up the phone and
call… We don’t want to do the same with God. That is why we come to church.
“What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?” says the psalm.
And the psalm answers right away: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call
on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the
LORD in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116). It is not enough to
give thanks at home, we need to show ourselves
grateful, because otherwise we would be giving a bad example. Also, we need to
give thanks all together as a community because we have received a benefit as a
community. In Argentina,
if we win the world cup, nobody stays home: everybody goes downtown to
celebrate for hours. Jesus died for all men and women; he won for us Heaven with
his own blood. We need to be grateful, we need to be
good children. That is why we come to Mass.
2. Another reason we come to Mass is to ask forgiveness for our sins. It is
also a duty. But not the duty of a slave. Maybe it has
happened to us, that we offended our father or our mother, or someone we loved.
At that time we were angry, we thought we had the right to do it because of
what had happened, etc. But time goes by, and we don’t feel well, we feel that
there is a pending matter in our life. And maybe one day you take courage and
go and say sorry. What a beautiful moment! What a liberation!
This is the kind of duty I am talking about: to say sorry to God is to
realize that we have received so much, and we have not treated God in a
correspondent manner. We need to set things right. We need to show him that we
are sorry, and that we know that he is also sorry for what we did, and that we
will try to do better from now on. The beautiful part of saying sorry to our
God is that we know that he will always forgive. Not because forgiveness is
cheap, but because his love is blood, his love is fire, his love is like a
flood, like an abyss of mercy. He has already died to forgive us, that is why it is so easy for him. He has experience of what it
means to be hurt, and what it means to forgive those who kill you and those who
deny you three times. He rose again from the dead to forgive: to forgive Peter
his denials, to forgive Thomas his unbelief, to forgive the apostles their lack
of courage, to forgive Paul his persecution.
Therefore, when we come to Mass, we do not come to receive anything from a
man. If people want jokes or music or entertainment, there are much better
places than a church to get that. To come to Mass is like to go to the house of
our father. We come to ask forgiveness for our lack of love and gratefulness,
we come to release our conscience and leave it naked in front of God. We come
for liberation. We come to share the sorrow of our Father for our sins; we come
to tell him that we are also sorry for what happened. We come to set things
right. Also, and most importantly, we come to say thank you. Not only for the
gifts we have received, but mainly for his love. Let
me explain this.
If people give you gifts, but you realize that they don’t really love you,
you may even feel insulted. Gifts are sometimes a way to buy people (“I give
you this, do this for me”), or a way to get rid of people (“I give you this,
now don’t bother me”). We like gifts, but we prefer the love of a person. This
is what makes you feel great. When a person gives you his or her heart, when
you realize that a person is interested in what happens to you, when a person
gives you his or her time, his or her life, then you feel great. The heart of
Jesus is like that. The love of God is like that. He not only gives you gifts,
he wants to be with you. He wants to make you feel great. He has time for you
(eternal time, eternal life), he does not need
anything from you. He only wants your love. We come to Mass to give him the
love he is looking for. We come to Mass to give him thanks for his love.
This, I believe, is “active participation in the liturgy.” You are not
spectators here, but actors. You have to say sorry, you have to
say thank you. Enjoy Mass, but remember that the one who enjoys Mass the most
is God himself. He is very happy to see you here. And as the Gospel says, he
will have you sit down to eat, and he will come and serve you: at the table of
the Eucharist, and in Heaven. –Fr. Andrew