Tag Archives: Mass

Why Mass Is Boring (Or Is It?)

When I was a boy, I would sometimes whine to my mother that I was bored. My kids do the same thing to me. I heard someone say once that “a bored person is a boring person.” So, I echo my mother’s advice and suggest to my kids in one way or another that they use their imagination.

We have become used to being spoon-fed and entertained. We are bombarded with all sorts of stimulus. We are media junkies. We have become so accustomed to musical and visual effects that our imaginations have atrophied. We can barely put down our phones to engage in conversation with the people next to us, much less God.

Disney World, for example, is lauded as a world of imagination. Actually, it’s a world of entertainment. We don’t need to use our own imaginations there. All of the imagining has been done for us. We pay to have it spoon-fed to us. It is the same with movies and television. Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) rules the day. We sit and we watch. We are spectators addicted to entertainment. Little or no imagination on our part is required. Entertainment is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a good, recreational thing. We just rely on it too much these days. It is killing us spiritually.

So, we find ourselves sitting in pews and wondering where all the action is. If the homily (sermon) doesn’t entertain us enough, we’re bored. If the music doesn’t move us enough, we’re bored. We become entertainment critics watching a lackluster “show” and our reviews are not good. We whine and cry that we’re bored and uninspired. Great preaching and inspiring music is nice to have, and God can certainly use those things to our edification. But the Mass is the same event even if it’s just a few people in a little room with no music and no great sermon.

The imagination we need to employ is not the kind that engages in fantasy. We’re not supposed to sit and daydream or “make stuff up.” Christianity is not about having an “imaginary friend” we call God (as many atheists claim). Rather, we are to use the part of our imagination that allows us to “see” with the eyes of faith that which is actually happening in the spiritual realm.

It’s somewhat like listening to a sporting event on the radio. The radio announcer calls the plays, but we must “see” the game in our minds’ eye. Watching the game on television or at the stadium requires less imagination. When listening to the game on the radio, we can still cheer along with the crowd because our imagination allows us to be “at the game.”

The Mass is not a “show” or a “game.” It is not a spectator event we are to sit and watch. We are not there to be entertained. The Mass is an event that we are to participate in. Active participation requires us to engage our God-given imagination.

Imagine being at The Last Supper. Through the miracle of the Eucharist we actually are at The Last Supper! The priest is “calling the plays” of what is actually taking place!” Our imagination is not supposed to help us “pretend” like we are there. It is supposed to help us “see” that we actually are there. In our minds’ eye we can see the saints and angels around us. We can see Christ telling us to “take and eat,” “take and drink.”

This is where the “radio announcer” analogy falls apart. We are not simply listening from a distance, wishing we were “at the game.” We are actually made present to what is happening!” We are not merely recalling past events. We are made present to the eternal sacrifice of Christ! We are not supposed to say, “Oh yeah, I remember hearing about The Last Supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection. I remember it. I’m going to make sure that I don’t forget that it happened.” No, we are supposed to see it happening in the present. God is eternal. No past. No future. When Moses asked what God’s name was, God told him, “I Am.” When we go to Mass, we are made present to the eternal sacrifice of Christ.

Was anyone yawning in the Upper Room when Jesus said “This is my body” and “This is my blood?” How many of Jesus’ followers were bored during the crucifixion or upon seeing Jesus resurrected?

Mass is boring? Really? Mass isn’t boring. We have become boring. C’mon! Let’s stop looking for entertainment. Let’s stop pining for “better preaching” or “better music.” Let’s use our imagination and actually participate in the eternal event!

For My Friends That “Don’t Get Anything Out Of Mass” Because It Is Boring Or Confusing

One of the most common complaints I hear from friends that left Catholicism is, “I just didn’t get anything out of going to Mass.”  Many of these friends now attend non-Catholic, Christian churches (if they attend at all).  Typically, the services they attend consist of music and a sermon.  No kneeling, standing up and sitting back down.  No confusing rituals or ancient traditions.  Just praise music, a sermon and some fellowship.  These days, there might be a video to watch, too.  Why complicate matters?

I have absolutely nothing against the old “K.I.S.S.” idea (Keep It Simple, Stupid!), although I don’t like the idea of calling anyone stupid.  That’s just rude.  But I do like for things to be straightforward and to-the-point.  I don’t like to complicate matters.  So, why do I like going to Mass when it seemingly complicates a very simple Gospel message?  It is because, although the Gospel is simple, it is also very deep and profound.  The Mass is also simple yet deep and profound.  The Gospel can be accepted by the simplest person, and it can also endlessly occupy and challenge the minds of the greatest theologians and philosophers.  In other words, the Gospel is for everyone, and so is the Mass.

The Mass proclaims the simple message to believe in Christ for the salvation of one’s soul.  The Mass also reflects 2000 years of deep theological reflection on salvation through Christ.  I would like to make an attempt here to explain the basics of the Mass in a way my friends can understand.  There is no way I can cover everything here, but the basics are enough for now.  All it takes to “get something out of the Mass” is an awareness of a few things.

 

  1. The simple message of the Gospel is typically right in front of you when you are seated in a Catholic church.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  This is the verse that folks hold up at sporting events on big signs, right?  “John 3:16.”  A crucifix is simply John 3:16 in “picture form.”  When you are in a Catholic church and looking at the crucifix you are “seeing” the reality of John 3:16.  That is why Catholics have an image of Christ hanging on the cross.  It is also because of 1Corinthians 1:23 which says, “We preach Christ crucified…”  Jesus died for you.  Take a look.  Pretty simple, eh?  Yet, so profound!
  2. The first part of the Mass is the “Liturgy of the Word.”  We start with the sign of the cross.  That shows we believe in the Holy Trinity (One God, three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  It also shows that we belong to God, not to ourselves.
  3. We ask God for forgiveness.  Ever hear people say, “Catholics don’t go straight to God with their sins?”  We do it all the time, at every Mass!
  4. Next, we read the Bible and preach from it.  There is usually a reading from the Old Testament, something from the Psalms, and the New Testament.  We stand up during the Gospel reading to reverence the story of Christ’s time here on earth.  Over a three year period, a faithfully attending Catholic will hear nearly the entire Bible.  Pretty simple, eh?  Catholics may not be good at quoting chapter and verse, but we hear God’s Word if we are listening.  Very profound!
  5. The second part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  This is where we as Christians do what Jesus commanded us to do.  At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and wine, blessed it, said “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” and told his followers to eat and drink it.  So, that’s what we do.  The priest, being ordained by the authority of Christ’s Church, stands in the place of Christ, and Christ’s words make the change happen (“Jesus told his priests, “He who hears you hears me.” Luke 10:16).  The bread and wine become Christ’s flesh and blood.  This has been the belief of the Church for 2000 years.  John chapter 6 shows how important this Eucharist is.  Jesus said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.  If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have eternal life and I will raise you up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:53-55)  Now, if you actually have the glorified Jesus Christ in the flesh right in your presence, it makes sense to show some respect and reverence, right?  So, we kneel down in worship.  Pretty simple, eh?  When we go forward for Communion, we accept Jesus into our hearts and also into our bodies.  Jesus wants to occupy every part of our being.  Now, that’s what I call Communion!  How profound, yet simple to do!  Anyone who believes can be fully united with Jesus!

 

Throughout these major parts of the Mass there are various hymns and prayers, including The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father).  We are supposed to participate with and actively listen to these prayers and enter into the whole process of the Mass, not simply observe it.  The Mass is not a show to watch.  It is the way Jesus told us he wants to be worshipped.  A baptized Christian is part of the priesthood of believers.  We are supposed to be joining in with the worship and sacrifice, not watching a performance (1Peter 2:5).  Jesus is the High Priest, the earthly priest stands in for him, and we are the “living stones” of the “holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”  There is only one spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; the sacrifice of Christ himself.  That’s why we lift him up in the Mass (John 3:14, 12:32).  That is also why people bow or genuflect towards the fancy, gold tabernacle in the church.  Some of the bread that has been changed into the body of Christ is kept in there.

The Mass is dismissed with an admonition to “Go.”  Christians are not supposed to be huddled up in their churches hiding from the world.  We are supposed to go to Mass, be nourished by Christ himself, and then take Christ out into the world we live in.  That’s not so hard to understand.

Like anything else in life, you get out of the Mass what you put into the Mass.  Remember, it is not there to entertain you.  It is also not an evangelizing service for recruiting new believers.  The Mass is there because it is how Jesus told us he wants believers to worship him and be fed by him.  The basics of the Mass do not change with the times.  Jesus never changes, and the way he told us to worship never changes.  That’s why the Mass is so ancient.  It was started by the unchanging Jesus 2000 years ago.

If there are things you don’t understand about the Mass, you can learn.  Ask questions, buy books, look up information on Catholic websites, whatever helps you to understand it better.  If you ask a question and don’t get a good answer, ask someone else who knows more.  Like anything else, once you know the basics, you wonder why it seemed so hard before.  The Mass is also very deep and profound.  The more I learn about the Mass, the more fascinating it becomes.  Every little action and word in the liturgy has deep meaning and purpose.

If you quit going to Mass because you were craving more fellowship, remember that Catholicism has other avenues for socializing.  It’s not enough to chat a few minutes before or after Mass.  If you really want the social interaction, you can find it in Catholicism.  Either find a more social parish or start a small group or event.  I recently joined a men’s group in my parish and it is helping me to be more social and involved.  You don’t need to leave Catholicism to have fellowship or to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Just imagine how vibrant and social your local parish and the entire Church would be if all those “former Catholics” saw the light and decided to return home to be fed by Christ himself!