I often hear Catholics equate their opinion of Mass with the quality of the homily that was preached. “Father So-and-So talks too long…is boring…preaches fire and brimstone…makes me feel good, etc”. Unfortunately, this tells me that a large number of Catholics don’t understand why they go to Mass in the first place. Some Catholics have even stopped attending Mass because they are not satisfied with the preaching. Please don’t misunderstand and think that I’m trying to put anyone down, because that is not my intention. It’s simply a reality that many Catholics don’t understand the Mass. If they did, a bad homily or a dull priest wouldn’t affect them one bit. I must first admit that for many years I didn’t have the slightest idea of what Mass is all about. I went every week because that’s what “good” Catholics do. If someone asked to explain the benefits of the Mass I would have been unable to do so.
Bad Homily…So What?
Let’s look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says about Mass (a.k.a. “The Eucharist”):
The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” (CCC 1366-1367)
Pretty impressive, isn’t it? When we go to Mass we are actually present at Calvary as Jesus offers Himself to the Father for the salvation of all mankind! This is a hard concept to grasp, but it is what the Church teaches. Jesus does not sacrifice Himself again at each Mass, but instead the one, single sacrifice at Calvary 2000 years ago is made present to us!
To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ. (CCC 1370)
At Mass, we are invited to offer our lives to the Father in union with the offering of Jesus. Additionally the saints in Heaven (including our Blessed Mother) are united with us in this offering. As the Catechism states, we are all at the foot of the cross.
For further information, I highly recommend reading the Catechism’s section on the Eucharist. Based on the brief information I have presented, can you see why it doesn’t really matter if you hear a bad homily at Mass? There is no homily bad enough and no priest dull enough to ever keep me from being at Calvary with Our Lord. If anyone ever complains about the quality of the preaching at Mass, I suggest that you charitably inform them of what is taking place there. By doing so, you may be responsible for transforming their life!