Monday, March 3, 2014

Continuation of the Liturgy of the Mass

Six months after ordination, a priest writing in the Bible & Life magazine recounts what happened to him at a morning weekday Mass. The pain in his stomach was so intense he could no long ignore the pain, and after the Gloria and the Oration he left the altar. On the intercom-phone he called the priest in the rectory, who came to finish the Mass for him.

The writer mentions that from his time in the seminary he has been troubled with health problems. He had a number of operations on his stomach but the problems continued. The intestines were so sensitive that when he ate something disagreeable he would have to run to the  toilet. He had gotten into the habit, he said, because of the stomach problems, of fasting for a number of days.  On one occasion he fasted for 40 days.

His cook would be concerned about his health and took extra pains to make sure he was getting what he needed and avoiding certain foods.  However, this did not prevent him from being diagnosed with malnutrition.

While in the  seminary he stayed away from liquor. Eating in restaurants was always a problem. And meeting people in the parish was always problematic since these meetings would often end up with eating and drinking, and the possible recurrence of his stomach problems. However, one day these thoughts came to him.

Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard by his enemies. Didn't this mean that he was meeting people very easily, drinking and eating and spreading his message while at table? If we transpose this way of life to the present, wouldn't we say he was talking with laborers, the women of the streets, and various other members of society, eating  and drinking with them in the numerous sidewalk stalls of the city?

What was his situation?  he asked himself. When talking with those he would meet during a typical day, he would tire quickly and excuse himself. Drinking was always a problem for him and eating with people was like sitting on a  pin cushion. He wanted to be another Jesus but this seemed impossible. He began to think that he was not made to be a priest, and the thought bothered him.  Would it not be better to leave the priesthood, he wondered, if he could not live his life as Jesus had lived his?

One evening after the young people's Mass on Sunday, there was the usual talk of going out to get something to eat. As was the custom they would go to some inexpensive  place, and after a brief time being with them, he would return to the rectory.  But this particular evening, while with the young people and hearing them talk, as they enjoyed the light-hearted bantering on many issues, he suddenly and surprisingly recalled the incident at Emmaus, where Jesus was thought to be a a pilgrim and invited to the house of the two disciples to eat.  Wasn't his time together with the young people, he wondered, like the continuation of the Mass?

As he sat there at the table, looking at the boiling stew pot in the middle of the table and the young people putting in their chop sticks to pull out something to eat, he saw the empty glass of the person opposite him and filled it, and put his own chopsticks into the stew to eat.  Wouldn't this be what Jesus would have done?

From that time on, he became a changed person. He began to drink a little, and being with others at table no longer was difficult. The times that he had problems with his stomach were greatly reduced. Recalling that Jesus' first Mass was at an ordinary meal, he came to the realization that the time he was at table, sharing with others, he was also continuing what he had begun at Mass.

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