While having a discussion with a friend at lunch, the conversation lead to our talking about the Mass and the meaning behind Catholics being repetitive with prayers in the Eucharistic service. There was an observation made on a Christian website where they posed the question: “Isn’t it wrong that Catholics, during their Mass, are killing Jesus over and over again just based on the repetition in the Catholic Mass?”
The way we address this question as Catholics is clear for us. We recognize the Mass serves as a reminder of the death of Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross and his resurrection from the dead. We also recognize this is the key to our salvation. This was the gift given to each of us from Jesus. I think it’s probably safe to say from our perspective it’s worth repeating over and over again. But is that the primary reason? It’s certainly one of them.
There is another possible answer to the question which was brought up at lunch. Our friend commented on something we felt was profound and a great observation related to this question: “when we are celebrating the Eucharist at Mass we are doing it in “God’s timing,” not ours!” What does that mean exactly? “Essentially, God’s timing consists of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Every time the Mass is said it’s in God’s timing. For example, it can be said we are being taken back to the time of the Last Supper or we are celebrating His resurrection now!” This conveyed another perspective to why we repeat the Mass over and over.
So, this leads me to my own observation; is the idea or suggestion that repetition in prayer supposedly a bad thing? Many of the things we do in life are repetitive. We wake up in the morning. We get dressed after showering. We eat meals. We spend time with family and friends. We work. We go to church. We pray. There is a certain comfort in the day to day monotony of our day. I’m not suggesting we don’t change it up once in a while. But even after a family vacation or a long trip, we tend to want to get back to our regular routines.
Another way we can look at this is from Jesus’ message to us. For example, Jesus taught us to pray with the Lord’s Prayer. I think it’s safe to say Jesus wanted it repeated often and expected us to commit it to memory.
In Matthew 6: 9-13:
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
Over and over Christian churches all over the world pray this prayer. Did Jesus say, you need only to say this prayer once? No, this is what Jesus wanted us to pray frequently, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
When your children tell you they love you or your spouse says I love you is your reaction, “Well, thanks, now I never need to hear that again.” Of course not! Can anyone hear that they are loved too many times?
So, at Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist, why do the same thing over and over again? Certainly another reason is that the disciples were instructed by Jesus to do it at his final meal when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
“And he said to them, ‘I have ardently longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
because, I tell you, I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’
Then, taking a cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and share it among you,
because from now on, I tell you, I shall never again drink wine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’
He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.” (Luke 22: 16-20)
The Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus stays with us for all time. This is what is meant by God’s timing!
We have become so used to living in an era where everything is done “fast food” style.
We want our needs answered quickly. We have computers and phones, apps on our phones, food access (i.e. McDonald’s, Burger King), television, iPads, iPods, all designed to help us achieve whatever we need quickly. I think perhaps God works a little differently. My mother use to encourage us to pray, especially by her example. Here is the question we would pose to her. I’m sure you’ve asked it yourself. “Why does God not answer our prayers sometimes when we ask him for something in prayer?” Her answer was always the same, “because sometimes the answer will be no, or not now.” In reality she’s saying, the answer to God’s prayers will be in God’s timing not ours.
Is your relationship with God the same as when you were a child? Hardly. With time that relationship gets less complicated. We understand more as we gain more knowledge. I find that we gain more patience because we know it keeps us coming back to God. I’ve written this so many times, because I believe this is the truest of statements. I like to give credit to my sister Mary because she is the one who quotes it, especially when times are tough. “Everything in life is about bringing us to our knees.” Do you suppose she needs to add this to her statement: “In reality, when you are asking God to answer your prayers all your answers will come in God’s timing!”
Copyright 2017 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh