Personally, I have learned a very important lesson. I realized that as a priest, and others often do this as well, I used to rebuke those who didn’t come to Mass and encourage others to call them and bring them in. I used to make this point especially to parents if it was their children, but I don’t know how much those rebukes increased the percentage of those who did come. I am rather more inclined to the conclusion that such invitations did not do much good.
Therefore, the more important question for me at this point is: How do I work with those who come to Mass? How do I celebrate Mass? How do I prepare myself, and then how do I prepare others? At this time, this seems to me considerably more important than admonishing and challenging those who do not come, because one thing is certain: no one, at any time or place, can renounce the desire for peace, love, justice, mercy, forgiveness. When our encounters with Christ, that is, the sacrifice of the Mass, become joyful encounters, encounters full of mutual love and a shared love for Christ, when we begin to live a true gratitude for one another and a shared gratitude to Christ, then the things we want to happen will start to happen. When those who come to Mass are transformed, then people will start coming back to Mass again. When the faithful return home filled with joy and when they start sharing joy with one another, people will start coming to Mass again because of the joy that God gives. When those who come back from Mass deeply affected by what happens at Mass begin to go to ask forgiveness for those who have hurt them or who have been hurt by them, people will start to come to Mass. Therefore those who no longer come to Mass have not renounced God or what God promises and gives, but have partly or fully renounced communion with those who seem to celebrate and do not celebrate, who seem to forgive but do not forgive, who choose good and often immediately return to evil, who seem to seek the kingdom of God but persist in the kingdom of restlessness and disorder, serving the works of darkness.
TIME OF PREPARATION
Our whole day or our whole week should always be a conscious preparation for the living encounter with Christ at Mass, with Christ who wants to cooperate with us and wants to make us more ready to cooperate. When a person seeks him in the depths of the soul, then every success and failure, every joy and sorrow, every failure and sin become, in their own way, a preparation for the encounter with Christ.
In Medjugorje there is a real preparation before every evening Mass. We pray the rosary, the hymn to the Holy Spirit and sing the Loreto Litany. Our Lady asks us to prepare. In Medjugorje, this preparation is organized in the simplest way for several reasons. One reason is the presence of pilgrims from different parts of the world. The prayer of the Rosary is available to all, even if we do not understand the language. The prayer of the Rosary and short songs are an opportunity for a person to slowly but surely overcome the daily distractions, to concentrate and unwind in order to understand and prepare for the encounter with Christ from the depths of the soul. The Rosary is simply befriending Jesus and Mary, contemplating their conduct as examples of faith in joy, in pain and in glory.
In Medjugorje, this preparation takes one hour, but if we cannot set aside that much time before Mass in the church, it does not mean that we should miss the preparation. Whether I am driving, walking alone or in the company of family and friends, I can pray and be aware of the reality of encountering Christ. Therefore, we should leave all other conversations and start praying.
The various intentions and graces that we can ask for are certainly an expression of love for Jesus, an expression of faith in his Eucharistic presence, an expression of love for his Word, and a prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit for me personally, for others who come to Mass, and for the priest who celebrates Mass. It would also be good to pray for inward enlightenment to recognize the obstacles and reluctance that hinder our encounter with God. It is also good to pray for healing of the wounds that remain in the heart because of our personal sins, the sins that others have done to us, and the sins that we have done to others.