The original Mass
On the eve of his death, Jesus invited his closest followers to join him for a parting meal. It was a meal that looked both to the past and to the future.
It recalled the escape of the Jewish slaves from Egypt after they’d smeared the doors of their homes with the blood of a lamb they’d shared with their family – food for their dangerous journey to freedom.
It was also a meal to prepare Jesus’ followers for the next day when Jesus himself would become the lamb, his body broken on a cross.
When Jesus then rose from the dead his followers tasted great freedom. They saw that death was not the end of Jesus’ life and mission – nor of theirs. They came to see that the refusal to retaliate, to take revenge, or to scapegoat also brought about deep inner freedom; it was sacrifice but also liberation.
At that last supper Jesus had invited others to share his life and mission by eating his body and drinking his blood in the form of bread and wine. And within a few years of his death, small Christian groups throughout Israel and Asia Minor were following his lead.
The Mass today
The Mass that Catholics celebrate all over the world today is that same act of sharing and self-sacrifice that Jesus modelled for his disciples. The words and rituals have changed much over the centuries, but their significance has never wavered.
Through the priest and ministers the words of the Bible are proclaimed and explained, and those present give the assent of their hearts in word and music. In sharing in the bread of sacrifice and the cup of union Catholics join Jesus in moments of joy and intimacy that stand outside time.
They then go forth to proclaim Jesus’ values and relive his sacrifice in the world today.
Father Neil Vaney
This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 6, ‘The Mass’ referencing page 16. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 6’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.