FR. Catalino G. Arevalo, S.J., mentor and guide to many Jesuit and diocesan priests as well as bishops, including Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, shared with us his devotion to the Mass.
He could give a brilliant and inspiring lecture or homily on the Eucharistic celebration, but more than the intellectual insight, it was the “kurot sa puso” that mattered most.
Fr. Revs, as he was fondly called, has said wonderful things about liturgy, but what I offer for our reflection on The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is the memorial character of the Mass.
In previous articles we have reflected on the act and grace of remembering; but allow me to revisit some of the blessings that come with memory.
One of the important elements of the act of remembering, especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is that we bring to life the grace we remember.
This was true for the event which prefigured the Mass, the Passover meal, which the Israelites remember as God’s saving act in the Exodus: “I will
be your God and you will be my people.”
In the Mass, this fidelity and the saving act that comes with it do not only level up; they reach perfection. God shows his fidelity through the loving obedience of Christ, the Beloved Son who dies on the Cross.
We once discussed if there is a difference between perfect love and unconditional love. The house, so to speak, was divided: Some said unconditional love is perfect love as it sets no conditions and allows total freedom; others pointed out that unconditional love merely approximates perfect love, but is not quite “it.”
Then someone claimed that perfect love was ineffable—this word alone made us stop dead on our tracks—and cannot be compared to unconditional love.
Unconditional love is still describable and can be captured in words and images. But perfect love, while having this element, is so much more.
Perfect love is. It is simply being.
Christ’s new covenant
This is the love we remember and bring to life at Mass, God’s perfect love.
We now go to the second point about remembering.
Remembering God’s perfect love is remembering the new— and perfect—covenant in Christ. A little comparison between this new covenant in Christ and the old covenant in the Old Testament gives us a better context and appreciation.
The context of the covenant in the Old Testament was the basic relationship of God with his people: “I will be your God. You will be my people.”
It was a “conditional” relationship. If one follows the law, one is in good standing with regard to the relationship. With a violation comes a rupture, but God always woos back his people.
In the Mass, the New Covenant, the law is transformed and brought to perfection. The basic relationship between God and man that was core to the covenant was also transformed: God is our Father, and we are his sons and daughters. Simply put, it is perfect love.
This is the relationship and the love that we remember and—the second element of remembering—reconnect to at every Mass. We reconnect with God. We reconnect with what makes us whole as a person: our integrity that can only be found in love and, in this case, perfect love.
There is a third level of re-connecting. We reconnect with one another as sons and daughters of the Father. We reconnect as one family, one community in the presence of God’s Kingdom on earth.
In remembering at Mass we reconnect with all these.
The third and final element of remembering is: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
The remembering of Christ in the Mass assumes a profound meaning and reality. Yes, because it is a “direct” command from Christ, but more so because we remember the sacrifice of his body and blood.
His sacrifice of his body and blood makes us holy. It is a perfect sacrifice that no more need be done, nothing more can be done.
As one Jesuit theologian said, with Christ’s perfect sacrifice, our sins past, present and future are forgiven.
Let me end with this story to make one last point.
When I was school principal 20 years ago, I loved hearing the confessions of my students during school Masses when I didn’t have to be the celebrant or cocelebrant.
Without at all “breaking” the seal of confession, let me recount how a typical conversation flowed when it came to the sin of “I have not been going to Mass for…”
After a student confesses, I would say, “If I tell you to go to Mass, will you go? Be honest.” Then the young man would say—and sometimes with a smile—“No, father.”
To which I would reply, “Thank you for being honest. But can I ask you a favor? Can you promise to pray, as often as you can, that God give you the grace of a genuine devotion to the Mass?”
In the end, this is one of the best—if not the best—ways to celebrate the Mass: with devotion, by being devoted to it.