To begin any sort of program or project, we have to have an end in mind. We can’t look at a pile of nails and wood and randomly nail boards together. But if we have a pattern we can follow, we can nail those boards together to make a table or chair or dresser. You can’t just say, “I’m going to lose weight” without knowing how much weight you want to lose, how long it will take, how to adjust your caloric intake to ensure healthy weight loss, and making a plan to lose the weight.
That is how we should look at going to Mass. What is the end you have in mind? That end is actually the beginning of another plan – to go into the world and live our lives as Jesus would do. At the end of Mass, the priest or deacon tells us to “Go in Peace.” We are being sent away to DO something. But what are we supposed to do? Matthew 7:12 says, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
To be able to go in peace, we must start the Mass by being at peace with ourselves – leaving all our worldly cares and sins and guilt at the door so we can focus on Jesus and others with whom we come in contact. “When we say, ‘Thanks be to God,’ we are thanking God profoundly and joyfully that the Mass is over and that we can leave church with a renewed commitment to make God’s love and peace real in our individual circles of influence” (Living the Mass, p. 10).
With that end in mind, we can now start Mass with our “church family.” We are not alone on this journey of life – we need one another, and within the church, we have friends that share our beliefs and enhance our celebration of the liturgy. We should arrive for Mass a few minutes early to collect ourselves, to have time to switch our focus from our outside cares to what is about to happen in the Mass. “… if our attention and focus are on ourselves, we run the risk of failing to recognize the presence of God in others” (Living the Mass, pp. 22-23). When Mass begins with the entrance procession, we are reminded that we are all on a journey together, moving toward the Lord.