With so much of our lives concentrated on work, personal and family responsibilities, and the inevitable detours to our carefully planned calendars, the arrival of Sunday Mass can sometimes find us breathless and far from spiritually or otherwise prepared to deeply participate in the liturgy.
Like other treasured moments of our lives where we seem to “blink and miss it,” such a disconnect could lead us to slip from the immediacy of worship and stagnate into a “routine” of Sunday church instead of a more dynamic experience that energizes and supports us through the rest of our busy days.
(See a related video.)
Preparation for Sunday Mass can help avoid stagnation or the jarring “Surprise! It’s Sunday!” feeling of being caught unawares. And far from a strenuous exercise that demands long stretches of time, several brief but focused actions can be of great value.
For example, having a different perspective of the week’s structure can form a sound basis for preparation for each Sunday. Instead of thinking of Sunday as “the end” of the week, we can view it as the beginning of the week, the launching pad for all else on our schedules. By this, we prioritize the practice of our faith and order all else around it.
The prioritization of Mass as our first weekly activity (even if we attend the Saturday vigil) sets us up for good practices during the week ahead, and for these, we have many possibilities.
St. Ambrose, St. Thomas Aquinas and others wrote specific reflections on ways to approach and center ourselves at the eucharistic table. These and other portable resources are easy to download and take up during those moments of the week that find us idle or waiting — in line, on hold or elsewhere.
A book called, “A Month with the Eucharist,” available on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website (www.store.usccb.org), is specifically written for priests and others who wish to deepen their preparation for Eucharist.
Along with prayer, spending time with the readings for each Sunday is a good practice, as is taking even one additional look at the readings from the past Sunday’s liturgy.
The more we visit with the word — reading, meditating, rereading — the more we’ll understand and be filled with God’s presence, much like meeting someone for the second and third time, instead of only once.
Additional readings and prayers, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, can be of great help too and, again, these are all available in very portable, digital formats.
Parish activities can deepen our ties with Sunday worship. Bible study, volunteer and other group meetings create strong fellowship with those who will be beside us at Mass. Eucharistic adoration, in quiet and peace, focuses our prayer in holy silence, preparing the fertile ground of our hearts within.
The sacrament of reconciliation deepens our faith to receive God’s wonderful abiding comfort and love on Sunday and throughout the week. Even catching a few, lone moments inside the empty church on a weekday afternoon helps us anticipate the fullness of being there on Sunday.
As Mass time approaches, physical preparations become outward reflections of the internal, prayerful work we have engaged in throughout the week. The care we take with grooming, deciding what we’ll wear to greet God and our fellow parishioners, and other details (where are those car keys?) all relate to our readiness to worship and help us leave behind our worldly cares for focused time with the Lord.
Then, having faithfully prepared ourselves, we can go to church ready to enter into the midst of a great celebration, mystery and outpouring of love and grace. Then we can savor each moment and be filled with deep gratitude for better insight, keener attention.
Then we can “go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord!” not only on Sunday but every day.
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