One of the questions that I get every once in a while is, “Why should I go to Mass at all? God is everywhere, so as long as I pray every so often and be generally a good person, do I need to go to Mass every week?” It’s actually a good question, and in some ways, I think Eucharistic Prayer II gives us a pretty good answer.
After the consecration, the priest prays, “Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of Life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you.” It’s kind of hidden away in the rest of the prayer, but has a very important meaning with two parts.
The first part is about being in God’s presence. Now, if you think about it, we’re in God’s presence all the time, right? God is omnipresent, and is with us every moment of every day. But there’s something special about being in God’s presence at Mass. I came across a blog called Grumbling and Gratitude by a neuroscience grad student named Jessica, who had a profound experience of this prayer at Mass. She pointed out that “being in Mass is only partially about being in his presence. By devoting time to sit quietly and pay attention to God, I’m showing that I want to be near him.” (By the way, pray for Jessica! She’s thinking of becoming Catholic!)
Think about it like this: a husband and wife live together and are with each other all the time, but regular “date nights” are still important to foster that relationship as special time together. Jessica said, “My relationship with God is the same way; He luckily already knows me, but I need to dedicate time to know him.”
God is present in a special way at Mass, however. Even though God is everywhere, we’re particularly in his real presence in the tabernacle. We’re in the same room (physically) as Jesus! That’s awesome! And that leads us to the second half of this prayer, which is ministering to him.
This word packs a lot of meaning, especially in a church. Each of us are there to minister to Jesus, but not necessarily in the same way. The priest, for example, ministers in a special way because of his priesthood. So the work “ministry” in a technical sense applies to his service. But let’s think about this word in the context of the Gospel of Matthew. After Jesus was tempted in the desert, “angels came and ministered to him.” (4:11) Now, were they wearing vestments and swinging incense? Maybe. But what the Gospel is getting at is the angels attending to his needs. They were serving him. That’s how we can “minister” to Christ – by worshipping and exalting him in the context of the Mass!
God doesn’t want us to roll out of bed grudgingly for Mass on Sundays. We should realize that it is truly a blessing to be able to worship, and to be in God’s presence and worship him. When you wake up tired and grumpy on a Sunday, think back to this prayer. It’s not that I have to go to Mass, but that I get to go to Mass!