St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Get ready for God                                                                      -Homily August 3, 2014

 

The Eucharistic celebration is not the celebration of ourselves, but the celebration of the love of God. It is not that we come to Church because we are a beautiful community: we are a beautiful community because the love of God makes us one. Our Sunday celebration is not only an encounter with my brothers and sisters, but most of all it is our encounter as brothers and sisters with Our Father in Heaven. Oh no, the Mass is not just any celebration… we all, sinners, come to drink from the wellsprings of forgiveness; we all, hungry, come to the table of God’s children, to the bread that gives true satisfaction, to the wine that gives true joy. Our bread is the word of God, the word of eternal life. Our bread is the body of Christ, the Word incarnate, source of everlasting joy, the monument of the love of God.

 

The Mass is not just any celebration. That is why even after something bad has happened to you or to your family, you still come to Mass. Actually, when we suffer, we want consolation. We need the word of a friend, we need a hug and the assurance that someone understands how we feel and is sorry about that. When we suffer, we need the consolation and love of our friends. That is why we come to Mass even in bad times. And perhaps in bad times we celebrate the Mass better. We listen to the words of our Friend, we receive the consolation of his love, manifested on the Cross, manifested in the communion we receive.

 

But I have a point today. The Mass is the celebration of the love of God. We don’t celebrate that we are good, but that the Lord is good to us. We have heard when we were children that God died for our sins, and we come to Mass to give him thanks. We are happy not because we are great, or because we feel great today, but because we are worthy of the love of God. “My goodness, God came to earth to die for me. Let’s go to church to give him thanks!” The Mass is an encounter with God, with the invisible and infinite God who became man and died for our sins. It is not about myself alone, how great I am; it is not even about my community alone, how great we are; it is “How great Thou art!”, the encounter of our community with our invisible, most merciful and loving God.

 

The point is that if we are going to encounter another person, there are many things we keep in mind. What will I say to him or her? How I will dress? What do I want from that person?  Do I go because I want to go, or because he or she has called me? Do I like this person or not? Am I resentful of something that this person did before? Am I grateful for something? What does this person mean to me? Can I simply go, because he is my friend, or do I need to send letters before or set an appointment? Can I be proud of myself in front of that person, can I be simply confident, or should I be humble? Do I need to say sorry for anything, before I meet him or her?

 

Dear friends, if we want to celebrate the Mass better, we need to grow in our awareness of the presence of God. In front of God, we are like this (thumb and index close…). We know that, but sometimes we don’t realize that he is here. That is why we ask for forgiveness right at the beginning of Mass: we enter the church, we realize that God is here, that he is so good… and we have not been that good to him.

 

In daily life, if I have to encounter a person to whom I am in debt, the first thing I have to set right is that debt. If it is a person I have offended, the first thing is to say sorry, and then we can speak of other things. But if I don’t do that, it may be taken as a lack of recognition, or a lack of respect. The other will think: “He is coming as if nothing had happened here. Does he not remember?”

 

Or let us put the case that a very important and famous person visits your house, and you welcome him or her in your regular dress, and you don’t bother to order the house. The other person may feel that you don’t recognize who he or she is, and feel uncomfortable. Instead, you will try to match the dress of that person, and try to make of your house the palace that the other person usually abides. You accommodate yourself to the person you meet. You get ready for the person you meet. Your own disposition will depend on who the other person is, and how you are or you have been in his or her regard.

 

All this is to say that before receiving communion, we have to get ready. Jesus in the Gospel first cures the sick, and then feeds them. A sick person cannot eat normally sometimes, and cannot enjoy food as a healthy person. If we have seriously offended God, we cannot go and meet him in communion as if nothing had happened. We have to ask for forgiveness first. That is why we say “Lord, have mercy” at the beginning of the Mass, but sometimes we also need to go to confession. Confession is the opportunity God gives me to set things right with him again. If I love God, I am sorry for having offended him. Who can say that he or she is pure in front of God? God knows we are sinners, but for this reason he is always ready to forgive. “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

 

I thought it would be easier to understand the necessity of confession by considering more vividly the fact that at Mass we encounter God, and if we realize who he is and who we are, we may better understand and even feel the necessity of saying to him: “I am sorry, I wish I had never done that to you.” May we live our holy Communion as an encounter with Jesus, a personal one. And may we ever get ready for Communion, in the humble recognition of who we are, and in the joyful recognition of how much he loves us. –Fr. Andrew