All should enter the Mass prepared to worship and draw near to Christ

Published: November 18, 2006

By Father James P. West

On the night before his death, Our Lord sits down at table with his Apostles for the Last Supper. Solemnly, in the most serious tone they have ever heard from him, he begins to speak, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.” As the Lord opens his mouth to continue, St. Peter stands up and interrupts, “Hey, guys, how’s everybody doing tonight? You all look so serious … Lighten up! We’re here to have a good time! Turn around and say hello to each other! Don’t be so stuffy! Hey, did you hear the one about the Messiah, the Rabbi and the Gentile? …” St. Peter continues with his routine as the Apostles sit enthralled by his antics, at times doubled over in laughter. At the end of the hour, all arise and walk out the door. “That was fantastic!” says St. Matthew. “Yeah! I haven’t laughed so hard in ages!” St. John proclaims, still trying to catch his breath from the nonstop levity. “Wow, I’m sure going to come back to hear him again. He’s the best!” chimes in Judas Iscariot. As the Apostles walk out of the Upper Room, slapping each other on the back and reminiscing about the fun they’ve just had, no one ever thinks to ask, “Where’s Jesus?” “Where did he go?” They hadn’t noticed him standing over in the corner with eyes downcast, the only one in the room not having a “good ol’ time.” Sadly, the Lord walks out the door alone and heads for the Garden of Gethsemane. Is this what we find in the Gospels? No. Mercifully, the Church’s first Mass — the Last Supper — was far different from the fictional event just described. The Mass belongs to Christ. He clearly showed the Apostles in that sacred meal the gravity of the moment and commanded that the Mass be perpetuated throughout the ages with the same solemnity. The Mass is not about us and our enjoyment. Why must it be just one more vehicle to our own personal enjoyment anyway? Neither is it about the priest and his need to be loved, accepted and celebrated. There is an intensity here. There is work involved, not play: the work of worship, the deliberate effort of the mind and heart to enter into the Lord’s Passion. Silliness and liturgical frivolity can neither satisfy the hungry soul, nor inspire, strengthen, or prepare Christ’s faithful to take up the Cross courageously and follow daily in his footsteps. When you approach the Mass, do not selfishly search for cheap and passing entertainment or for some flashy showman or comedian in priestly vestments at the altar of God. Rather, be willing and ready to invest yourself in the sacrificial work of the worship of the Lord. Seek nothing more than to draw near to Christ in all his mystery and majesty and to the astounding grace that he offers to you at the table of the Last Supper. Father James P. West is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock.