praying hands2

Yesterday morning at Mass, I was thinking of those relatives and friends for whom I was offering today’s mass. And I kind of got distracted. Why do we make these intentions? What are we expecting? For what purpose are we telling God about these people? Does He not know about their plight, already? Do we think that “SINCE IT IS I” that is making this request surely God will hear and answer it? Are we saying that the merits that I would normally receive from this Mass should be given to them, instead? This last seems plausible, until you think, “How does God distribute something that is already infinite”?

I will be the first to admit that I am really struggling here. This is beyond my scope of comprehension. However, having said that, I still would like to offer another idea, another possible reason. We could petition God to distribute the infinite merits of the Mass to the entire world, and all would be covered infinitely. No more lists of names would be required. No more trying to remember that special group of individuals. But this does not seem right. It seems to be… too clinical, too mathematical. We as a person are not involved. There is no personal involvement, no love, nor commitment. God could snap His fingers and instantly all the problems of the world could go away. But He doesn’t. Why? He doesn’t want it to happen that way. He doesn’t want to remove our free will, our free commitment. He needs….us???

Could it be that when we sit or kneel in the pew and silently mention to God our worries about friends, our concerns about those we love, there is a real unmistakable reason. Could it be that we are silently telling God, all the people who we are mentioning in our intentions WE will try to bring Him to them, today? We will go visit them. We will truly pray for each throughout the day. We will help them in whatever struggles we perceive they are having. Not so much as “I AM DOING THIS”, but rather, “Please God, work through my actions. Help me say the right words, the consoling words, the uplifting words that this person or that person needs. If I am in a position to remove a problem, a weight, a concern, give me the guidance, the love, the courage to do so”.

The Blessed Sacrament of the Mass, even Christianity itself, is not something to be attended nor just enrolled in. As dynamic as Jesus’ love is for us so, too, our love for others must also be dynamic. I am afraid that very often we leave a Mass with a good feeling of having done our duty, of having done something that was painful, but we did it anyway. And we are filled with self-justification. The coming together at Mass, the whole concept of being a Catholic Christian, is to rejoice in the union with Jesus and with each other. We share a joy, a love for our brothers and sisters. This joy, this sharing is singularly visible when we attend Mass. We used to shake hands and say, “hello” to people sitting around us. Why? Why would we do something like that? We would do that, for no other reason than to visibly show this communal friendship. Without that communal friendship we have no community. If there is someone in that church that you cannot look at, speak to, or truly smile at, then your participation in that community is not all that it could or should be.

What does all of this have to do with intentions made before the Mass even begins? The Mass, Catholic Christianity, is all about brotherhood. We smile at and we embrace those who are present. We bond with them. But what of those who are suffering? Are unable to attend? Do not wish to attend? For whatever reason, they are not physically or spiritually present this week or this month? These people that we pray for (they may even be beside us, at Mass) we are telling the Christ that we will try to dispose ourselves today, so that He can act through us, bring the joy of this Mass to them. That is a major commitment on our part. Because, for Jesus to act through us, people must see Him in our actions, hear Him in our words, feel Him in our love and concern. This is no small task. We cannot feign love. We cannot pretend to be concerned about people. People will see right through our hypocrisy and will hold us and all that we stand for, at arm’s length, and thus defeating the whole concept of Christianity. To truly present Christ to a hurting, suffering world that we pray for, we must embrace it tightly. We must embrace the lame and the lazy, the blind and the dirty. Everyone is our brother. Everyone is our sister. Their condition, their disposition is not ours to judge but to embrace. We remember them before Mass, so that we can love and embrace them after Mass.