Edited by Fr. Joaquim Lobo and published in Sangati, June 2020 (Salesian Magazine, Goa)
PART 1 – Coronavirus – the gift we didn’t ask for
The season of the pandemic has thrown lives and lifestyles out of order. For months together, going to church and being at Mass was not an option since all religious places of worship were shut. For many, the option of not having to fulfil the “Sunday obligation” came as a welcome relief. For others, there was a disappointment of missing out on the immense graces of Holy Mass. Also, many of us may find ourselves ‘in-between’ these two categories, with an emotion of indifference so as to say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter if it’s not an expectation from the Church or the society. God is everywhere.” It is this last category of people that have not really understood the power of the Eucharist. Thanks to coronavirus, the lockdown mode and online streaming of services, many a Catholic has had eye-opening realisations of the beauty of Holy Mass! Many a wonderful lesson has been learned!
Live streaming of Holy Mass through the internet does not replace the real thing. However, God has provided the facility for a reason, perhaps to awaken our thoughts and to show us that we could be taking many aspects of Mass for granted.
What really matters is not mere physical presence but a contrite heart of worship! Sincere participation in online Mass can happen in an empowering way, even within the walls of a bedroom or living room! What is needed is openness of heart and a desire to meet the Lord!
If what is viewed on screen is an actual celebration of the Eucharist happening somewhere in the world, then much benefit can be gained, with the right attitudes in place and sincere participation in the Liturgy. “Long distance” and “remote location” are boundaries which the Holy Spirit can cross in a fraction of a second without effort!
As with the regular Church Mass, one needs to prepare himself even for an online service. As always, the heart has to be made fertile ground if it has to benefit from the Readings, Liturgy, Offertory and Communion. Jesus is calling one and all to worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24) and this has to be both the desire and intention, whether the Mass is online or not. While one does not need to dress up in his or her ‘Sunday best’, an attitude and ambience of sanctity needs to be in place. For example, a crucifix placed next to the TV or electronic device will enable a more attentive frame of mind and a more heartfelt Offertory.
Invalid Excuses & Deceptions
- The excuse that one finds it difficult to get into the flow of the online celebration mostly indicates that he was not truly or fervently participating in church Mass in the first place earlier when it was available. The stages of the celebration remain exactly the same, without any change. If a person could direct his or her heart to the foot of the Cross before, which is what Mass is all about, he or she will not find it difficult to replicate the same process interiorly at home.
- Another excuse is that if the Holy Communion is not being received, there is no point in online Mass. This is far from the truth! An understanding of “Spiritual Communion” outlined below is of utmost importance.
- Yet another excuse is that something “virtual” is not going to be a benefit. What has to be understood is that the online Mass being celebrated at a remote location is not a show or performance. This is an actual REAL and LIVE Mass happening in some place at that same time, and the graces from that Altar are not limited to that setting alone. Since the Holy Spirit blows where He wills (Jn 3:8) and Jesus can enter a closed room anywhere (Jn 20:19), all of us rightly can and should expect divine graces and Living Water to flow into our homes! An element of faith, sincerity of heart and a thirst for the living God is what matters.
Here then is a chance for us to ask ourselves a few questions: Was I really attending Mass before in the right way? Was there something I was missing out at church earlier? Is there something I am missing out on now? What can I learn from the lockdown restrictions? How can I benefit from what the Catholic Church is providing through the internet?
Some Awakening thoughts
- A repentant person who is guided by what is seen on the TV screen to say from the depths of his heart, ‘Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.’ is far better off than a person uttering the very same words at church without repentance (Matt 15:8).
- A person who sincerely participates in “Spiritual Communion” from home with true surrender, is in a better position than anyone receiving Holy Communion at church without consciously preparing his heart for the same (2Cor 11:27).
- Lesser distractions at home without the Sunday crowd have led many to a deeper and more profound time of surrender at the Offertory. People who have tasted this joy during online Mass will now be more attentive to regular service when it does reopen – a spiritual investment for a lifetime of grace!
These realisations, among others, have come to many during lockdown. People who neglect the participation in online Mass are missing out on many wonderful blessings!
… continued in Part-2 which outlines the power of Spiritual Communion and a few Testimonies from families who benefited from online Mass.