Do you ever find the Mass boring? Or feel like you’re just a spectator, waiting quietly until the moment you can participate by receiving the Eucharist? If so, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with fully, actively, and consciously participating in the Mass. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Fr. Dave Heney, host of Family Rosary Across America®, stopped by The Inner Life® this week to discuss the Mass, and why rather than asking what we get out of Mass, we should look at it as an opportunity to give.
“The main thing about the Mass is that it and our whole faith is focused on Jesus and what Jesus did,” Fr. Dave said. “And the center of Jesus’ life was his passion, death and resurrection. That’s the salvation of our world. That’s the salvation of you. That’s our salvation of our life. And that is re-presented, recreated at every Mass. We get to experience the salvific actions of God through His Son Jesus, at every Mass.”
Fr. Dave marveled at how incredible it is that we are able to experience the one saving sacrifice of Jesus at each and every Mass, through the Liturgy of the Eucharist. “Once you realize just how significant, how important it is, how it is entering into the very center of Jesus’ life, you want to make sure that you’re there every Sunday. Whether the music is good, whether the homily is good, whether the air conditioning is working or not. Those all fade-away to secondary importance. The main thing is we get to participate in the main event, why Jesus actually came.”
But Fr. Dave confessed that he didn’t always feel this way. As a kid, he saw the Mass as boring. But one interaction with his parents changed that for him, and he realized he had been looking at Mass the wrong way all along.
“When I was a kid I was really into sports,” he recounted. “I remember one Sunday there was a basketball playoff game on a Sunday morning that I wanted to watch. The Lakers, I’m sure. And that was the day that I said to my folks, ‘I don’t want to go to Mass today. I’d rather watch basketball.’ And, you know, at that particular parish I was in we actually did not have a really good homilist. The priest was not very good at giving sermons. Music was kind of ordinary and nothing to really grab you, nothing to grab your attention. So I said to my folks, ‘I don’t want to go to Mass today. It’s boring.'”
Rather than letting him stay home, or dragging him out the door, Fr. Dave’s parents said something that had a profound experience on his life. In fact, he credits his vocation as a priest as coming from this conversation.
“They looked at me and they said, ‘Dave, you have had all week to yourself, running around the hills, having fun. You’ve had all week to yourself. This is one hour that you give back to God,'” Fr. Dave said.
“Well, you know, I really couldn’t argue with the math,” he admitted. “I mean, I did have all week to myself. This was only one hour to give back. But what really grabbed me was that phrase, ‘you give an hour.’ Because I was always going to Mass waiting to be entertained, waiting to be grabbed, waiting for someone to give me something – good music, a good homily, a good lesson, a good experience. And that simple phrase from my parents reversed everything.”
“I began to view the Mass as something that I did, I offered. And then later, of course, in the seminary, I recognize that Jesus is giving himself within the Mass, and he’s inviting us to do the same, so that we join ourselves to his gift of his life to his Father in heaven. So the Mass is this kind of giant giving. It’s not so much a giant getting. Jesus giving his life to our Father in heaven, and asking us to join him so that we give ourselves along with Jesus to our Father in heaven. And that is just so much more satisfying.”
This shift in his view of the Mass helped Fr. Dave see everything in a new light, and made each Mass a beautiful opportunity for sacrifice rather than an opportunity to be entertained.
“It kind of inoculated me against bad sermons or bad music,” he explained. “I mean, I was happy if they were great. But if they weren’t, it didn’t sour me on the experience, I still knew that it was my responsibility to offer myself to the Lord in that that one hour experience of Mass every Sunday. So that simple phrase from my folks, ‘This is one hour that you give yourself back to God,’ in a way that turned everything around for me.”