31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 The 1:11-2:2
“…for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”
Today’s gospel took place at Jericho just before Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem for the last time. As Jesus passed through the town, many were gathered to seek him, including Zacchaeus the chief tax collector. But Zacchaeus could not see Jesus because of the crowd; the multitude that were flocking to meet Jesus too or who came before Zacchaeus did. However, there was another group of people not mentioned in the scriptures — those who chose to stay at home or had little interest in the Lord. This scene in the gospel is reminiscent of the Mass — where we have Jesus (in the word of God and Holy Eucharist) and the congregation. The congregation comprises people from all walks of life — some could be eagerly seeking God like what Zacchaeus did; some could be there because their family members have dragged them along, while others could be simply turning up out of curiosity or habit. Regardless of our underlying intent or purpose, it matters that we make it a point to be present for Mass.
Declining mass attendance has been a focal point in many developed countries for a number of years. With the COVID-19 pandemic, church attendance had degraded from being dreadful to catastrophic. The restrictions during the height of the pandemic weren’t the cause of the decline, but merely revealing the reality that most Catholics have little more than a cultural and habitual attachment to their faith. The convenience and widespread adoption of ‘attending’ live streaming masses amplified the notion of, “why go to church if we can worship anywhere”?
Even though it is true that we can worship God anywhere at any time, it matters that we worship Him with other people. It goes beyond the physical building; the church is the assembly of people and the body of Christ, which comprises of the entire congregation. To some (and myself at times), the Mass can seem dull, dry and boring. It appears to be the same ritual over and over again, and we do not seem to get much out of the homily nor the hymns. It defies the image of a real church experience where people step out of the parish feeling like their passion is on fire. But perhaps the problem lies in many of us who momentarily fail to recognize the significance of the Mass?
It is often said that going to Mass is an obligation, but the implied compulsion to attend sounded more like a legalistic requirement that is repulsive. It makes little difference to those who are already attending religiously, but extremely off-putting and uninviting to those who aren’t. Rather, we attend Mass because it represents our loving response to our God who has loved us first. It is an active choice of the will to give of our time, the most precious commodity we have to offer. The Mass is the prayer of the Church par excellence, i.e. there is no greater prayer other than the holy sacrifice of the Mass. For Catholics, we are also invited to encounter the True Presence of God in a way more profound and real than any other church service. When we receive Holy Communion in faith and with an open heart, we enter into communion with Jesus in the depths of our soul. Through the Eucharist, we are being nourished and sustained for our earthly journey. What we receive at Mass is infinitely more than just a passing good feeling or a preached life lesson. We participate in the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ himself as we receive his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. That is definitely something that could not be fulfilled via a streaming service in the comfort of our homes.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please grant us the desire and passion to worship you as a community and the will to glorify and praise you, especially when our body and mind are weak. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father. for uniting us to the affection of your love, in spite of our utter unworthiness. Thank you for sowing the seed of humility in us and granting endless mercy and compassion.
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