I haven't been to Mass in over a week, and boy oh boy am I feeling it. It's like anything else that you do that is good for your body and soul, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods: When you stop, you feel the negative effects. It's the same with going to Mass. In my case, we've had illness at our house. Last week I stayed home from daily Mass to tend to my son, who was pretty sick. Then, once he recovered, I fell ill. Oh, the frustration!
And it's Holy Week to boot. The pain of staying away from Mass during Holy Week is especially acute. As I lie in bed with Kleenex surrounding me and a mug of tea with lemon, I can't help but feel sorry for myself. I haven't had the Eucharist in over a week, and I'm feeling bad. The constant coughing and aching body adds to my frustration. I want to be there! I want to help share in Christ's Passion, and I can't.
The suffering I feel is not just from a silly cold virus which will go away soon enough. It's from missing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, participating in it and watching the mystery unfold on the altar, receiving Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It's from missed graces.
I can remember a time I had to be forced to go to Mass. I'll admit it: I thought Mass was boring. BORING, can you imagine? Heaven comes down to earth with each Mass and I was thinking about running to Target for fabric softener. I'd yawn and check my watch, congratulating myself that once the homily was through, it meant we were halfway over. I had things to do, I'd be getting hungry, and I'd be thinking about the errands I had to run that Sunday. And Daily Mass? Forget it; that was for the old ladies who had nothing to do, who fingered their Rosary beads. Oh yes, this was my thought process at one time several years ago. I was completely ignorant, but our loving God doesn't push. He doesn't press. He gently invites, because He wants you there so badly, but He loves you too much to force His love on you.
Last year, God gently invited me to start attending daily Mass and in these quiet 45 minutes, I find the peace of God surround me and envelop me. I find that my day starts out so much better for having been there, that I can think clearer, write better, BE better.
So it's painful for me to miss Holy Mass. It hurts. It makes me feel empty. But you know what? In this small way of suffering, I AM sharing in Christ's Passion.
And I suppose that's really a perfect way to spend Holy Week, come to think of it.