The Mass strengthens us to live our faith, bishop says
When young Carl Kemme went to the theater, he enjoyed the previews as much as he did the movie.
“Those five or six previews that would precede the movie…kind of whet my appetite for a movie that I’d like to see in the future – there was enough in that preview to give you a sense of what the movie was going to be about,” Bishop Kemme said Sunday, March 5, at a Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.
Books do the same thing, he said, when the incomplete summaries of the plot are divulged so as to give the reader a taste, a sense, of what is going to happen in the novel.
Previews in our lives
“And you know, really and truly, when you think about our lives, there’s also those kinds of previews: much of what will happen in our life, maybe not as clearly as we would hope it to be, but little glimpses of what life is going to be like or what’s going to happen maybe in our future.”
Bishop Kemme tied those thoughts to the day’s Gospel about the Transfiguration of Jesus, one of the most profound moments in the life of our Lord. “So much so that all the evangelists, all four evangelists by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of course, included the Transfiguration in each of their gospels.”
They wanted the church down through the centuries to know about the encounter Peter, James, and John had on Mount Tabor, he said.
A view from the Mount
Bishop Kemme said he has been privileged to stand on the mountain.
“You can see for miles. It gives you an otherworldly view, if you will,” he said. “And rightly so because it was on that mountain that Peter, James, and John were given a preview, a glimpse, of things to come. Jesus went into this otherworldly conversation with Moses and Elijah, the great prophet, and the lawgiver, uniting if you will, that singular moment all of biblical history.”
The event was so otherworldly the gospel writers were unable to capture it in words, the bishop said.
“We could say that it was like seeing Jesus’ divinity in all his glory as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, seeing that with human eyes, shining through his human nature – an incredible experience that Peter, James, and John certainly never forgot.”
The Transfiguration was preparation
The Transfiguration not only allowed them to witness Jesus in all his glory, Bishop Kemme said, it also prepared them for what was to come, the scandal of the cross.
In addition, it was a preview of what was to come, he said, a glimpse of the glory of the kingdom of heaven.
“The church invites us, like Peter, James, and John, to go come away right now at this moment with Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I’m convinced…that the Mass is so central to our lives as Catholics, so valuable, so vital, that the church requires us, obliges us, to be here Sunday after Sunday, and for many of us, if possible, day after day because the Mass is our transfiguration moment,” the bishop said. “It’s our moment to leave the ordinary, the mundane, the daily lives that we all have, with all its problems, all its challenges, all its turmoil, and confusion; but also its joys and sorrows, and everything that’s part of daily life for us as human beings, to leave that, if for a moment, and to go with Jesus here to this mountain of the Transfiguration, for us this sacrifice.”
The Mass strengthens
It is at the Mass, he continued, where we, like Peter, James, and John, are strengthened to go back to our lives to live our faith nourished to live through the scandal of the Passion of Jesus – but also to give us an extraordinary glimpse of what is to come.
“The glory that awaits us, the kingdom of heaven in the fullness of the kingdom, and all of that, brothers and sisters, is right here for us, in this moment, the sacred moment, this encounter with Jesus on the mountain that we call the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” he said.
“That’s why we should never, ever, be absent from this – unless we’re prevented by sickness or any other legitimate reason – we should run to the Mass, we should run up this mountain with Jesus, and here encounter him so powerfully present in the Word, which speaks to us again and again of truth.”
Encounter Jesus in Communion
The faithful also encounter Jesus in Holy Communion, in a liturgy that is otherworldly, and that transports us to a higher realm, one out of the ordinary.
“That’s why the church is so insistent that her liturgies be done well, with beauty and decorum, surrounding us, the faithful of God, with the beauty of ritual dress and ritual action and gestures, and the beauty of art and music lifting up our minds, our eyes, and our hearts to the glory that is yet to come.”
Bishop Kemme explained that he was celebrating the Mass in Latin because the church for centuries celebrated her liturgy in the ancient language.
“I’m hopeful that this can be a time for us to sense more deeply what every Mass should be, whether offered in the vernacular or in Latin, an otherworldly encounter with Christ,” he said, because it offers us “a fleeting glimpse, a preview, of what is to come when we meet Christ, face to face, in union with him, forever and ever in the glory of heaven.”