Friday, June 19, 2020

Is TV Mass the same as the Real Thing?

I recently saw this comment on Facebook and an alarm went off:
“So someone told me that they went to Mass last weekend for the first time since public Mass ceased. She told me as far as she is concerned there was no difference from TV Mass except for the fact that she was physically present. Is there a difference in the graces received? I will attend Mass every Sunday but I’m starting to become confused myself. My husband felt it better we watch a live Mass, my kids complained they wanted to watch a prerecorded Mass at a later time in the day on Sunday. These are issues I just never discussed with someone more knowledgeable than myself on these matters.”
People, through no fault of their own, don’t understand the difference between attending Mass in person and watching it on live stream. The difference is infinite. Please let me state this from the beginning: Mass on TV or the internet can never and will never fulfill your obligation to attend the Mass in person. At present, the obligation is still lifted because of the Covid-19 situation, but that is a temporary situation to protect those who are susceptible to the virus. It is not an excuse to justify not going to Sunday Mass when it is readily available.

Why is it not the same? Let me start with an illustration that a doctor friend told me recently.
“Father, I’ve never seen anything like this virus in my 39 years as a practicing physician. Yes, 99% recover, but the ones that don’t are stricken horribly. The worst is when they are dying and none of their loved ones are permitted to be with them, to hold their hand or to hug them or to kiss them goodbye. I’ve seen a nurse take an iPad into the room and the loved one talks to their dying relative on Facetime. It is the most horrible, empty imitation of love that I have ever seen and it is a very sad substitute for both the dying patient and the family.”
We are not virtual creatures. We are real, flesh and blood creatures, living in time. Our God is not virtual. He is real, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, present in the world more than we are present to ourselves. Jesus, the eternal Son, is not virtual. He is a Divine Person who became Incarnate and took on human flesh. The Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross which is re-presented at the Sacrifice of the Mass is not virtual. That Sacrifice is made really, physically, mystically, spiritually present at each Mass. We are present at the Last Supper and we are present at the Resurrection. We human beings are commanded by God to worship Him, sacrifice for Him, love him, be present to Him, do this in memory of him, offer the sacrifice with the priest, not virtually, but in real time and space. We are not to be separated from our Beloved Lord by a glass lens and an artificial picture on a glass screen. No, we are meant to be with him and give him the real, physical love and devotion He deserves and we so desperately need.

When we are physically present at Mass, we stand at Calvary with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John and Saint Mary Magdalen. We are not hiding in the upper room far away. All seven sacraments are real, flesh and blood, personal, physical and spiritual encounters with the living, Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. We receive Sacramental grace which is transformative and absolutely necessary for salvation. The seven sacraments are the gift of Jesus himself, touching us and redeeming us in real time, just as he did when he walked the earth.

Watching Mass on TV or the internet is nothing like what I just described. It is the difference between a Sacrament and a sacramental. A Sacrament is a sign instituted by Christ that actually gives what it signifies. It is a direct encounter with the living Lord. A sacramental is a holy thing or action which the Church makes use of so that we can obtain spiritual or temporal benefits. Some examples of  sacramentals are holy water, blessed palms, blessed crucifixes, rosaries, medals etc. These things are holy in that they are set aside and blessed for the service of God. Their use raises our hearts and minds to God. They help us to pray and to receive actual graces and benefits from God. They are not, however, signs instituted by God the Son, whereby He touches us and enters into our being physically, mystically and really. When we are physically present at Mass we are really and physically present at Calvary, the Last Supper and the Resurrection, the Heavenly Liturgy. The place where heaven meets earth. We encounter the Living God and he enters into our souls in the most intimate and real way. When we watch Mass on TV or the internet, we are not present at Calvary, the Last Supper, or the Resurrection. We do not receive sacramental grace. We do not have a real, physical, mystical, spiritual encounter where Christ enters us, and we are not offering the sacrifice with the priest. Like a sacramental we use the broadcast to raise our hearts and minds to God, we do something on Sunday rather than nothing, we set aside time from our day to acknowledge God with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we make the best of a bad situation that we can’t wait to have corrected.

I would like to mention one last thing. We are living in a world that has been heavily influenced by Protestant thought. Protestant thought de-emphasizes the sacraments if they even believe in the sacraments. They don’t believe that the Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Our Lord on Calvary. They don’t believe that the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ. They have a very individualistic view of faith and belief – me and my personal relation with Jesus. (The Catholic Faith teaches that we, the Church together, under the Pope and Bishops must have our relationship with Jesus guided and formed together by Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as handed down through the ages.) They believe that they should be spiritual and not religious. (Which basically means that an individual decides what they want to believe and do, and that they are their own Pope in regard to Doctrine and Morals.) It is so typical of the modern world. Me, and my feelings and my thoughts, are what determine belief and practice. I am the center of the universe and God, as I define him, should be happy with whatever scraps I wish to throw in His direction. No. No. No. I do not decide, individually, what I am going to believe and how I am going to worship. Christ, God made Man, determines what I am going to believe and how I am going to worship. The Catholic Church has the mandate and the responsibility from the Lord to make sure everything He commanded is taught and practiced until He comes again. He told us to “Do this in Memory of Me.” We are commanded to “Keep Holy the Sabbath.” The Church has taught from the beginning that to “Keep Holy the Sabbath,” We, not me deciding for myself, must do this in memory of Him, by offering with the priest, in person, the Sacrifice of our Salvation that He gives us, THE MASS. We, you and me, with all the saints and angels, gather around the throne of God in heaven while simultaneously surrounding His throne on earth, the altar.

My good friends, this pandemic forced people to die alone looking at a screen that was a very poor substitute for those they loved. Don’t let it become an excuse for you to make it a poor substitute for a real divinely mandated encounter with the living God.

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