Returning to Mass
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Gospel of St. John records these words of our Blessed Lord, “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53)
These words of Jesus, among others, form the foundation of our theology on the Eucharist, which is an essential component of the Catholic way of life. It is in the Eucharist, instituted by Christ on the night of the Last Supper, where we find the Bread of Life, which through the ministry of the ordained priest, becomes Christ’s true flesh and true blood, the divine food that will sustain us on our earthly pilgrimage.
For over two millennia the Catholic Church has gathered day after day at altars all over the world to celebrate what we call the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, knowing that the Liturgy of the Eucharist is “the summit toward which the activity of the church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II). As such, we should value and give priority to the Mass before all else, as did so many in previous generations.
When I think of the great sacrifices that previous generations made in order to go to Mass, of how the early Christians risked certain persecution and death if caught in the very act of celebrating the Mass, or of those thousands in concentration camps who were denied such an opportunity, I am certain you will agree with me that we are blessed to live in a time and in such a place where we have the Mass so available to us and with such convenience. However, we should never take this blessing for granted!
How blessed I am to offer the Mass every day and to go the Lord in the tabernacle to pray and adore. I often shudder to think where I might be if it were not for the Eucharist! As a pastor and now bishop, I am distressed to know that so many Catholics, including members of my own family and among my friends, have abandoned the Eucharist and go weeks, months, and even years without participating in its saving and life-giving mystery! I try to pray each day that more and more of our people will wholeheartedly return and share once again in this inexhaustible fount, from which all our power flows so that together all of us will reach the great summit of the faith which is eternal life.
Dear friends, perhaps one of the many graces we have received or can receive from the current pandemic is to have a greater appreciation of the importance of the Mass in our Catholic lives. During the painful time of the public suspension of the Mass in our diocese, I heard repeatedly of how much people missed going to Mass and how much they had taken it for granted.
Now that public Masses have resumed, I pray that everyone will soon return to the Mass, understanding of course the need for some, who because of age, health concerns, or other legitimate reasons continue to use the current dispensation to morally refrain from the public celebration of the Mass.
But for the rest of us, who are otherwise healthy and able to resume our normal activities, albeit with important restrictions and precautions, I urge you to return to the Mass as soon as possible, if you have not done so already, so that you will not miss the important and essential graces that come from that power which flows from the source of God himself, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful to our parish priests for their diligence in helping all our people feel safe and secure in attending the Mass by implementing our diocesan guidelines, by providing for social distancing, by sanitizing the church, and by requesting the wearing of masks during the celebration of the Mass. I am hopeful these efforts will give everyone the security they need in order to return in a safe way.
Much has been said these past months about who and what is essential. I say with all urgency: THE MASS IS ESSENTIAL! To further highlight the importance of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I will end with more from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. “From the Liturgy, therefore, and especially from the Eucharist, grace is poured forth upon us as from a fountain, and the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God to which all other activities of the church are directed, as toward their end, are achieved with maximum effectiveness.”
May the faith flourish in the Diocese of Wichita through the full participation of all the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that everyone will find sanctification in Christ and that God will be glorified until the end of time. God bless you all.
+ The Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme
Bishop of Wichita