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May 10, 2022

Time Travel and Sunday Mass

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

You can probably recite every word of the Mass, but do you feel transformed when you walk out the door? 

While we as Catholics know that the Mass is the source and summit of our faith, at times that knowledge can stay in our head and fail to reach our heart.

As we go to Mass every week and hear the same words, in the same building, with the same people, it can be easy to slip into the trap of it becoming routine. 

“Mass on Sunday?” Check. 

You might feel like you’re going through the motions when you go to Mass. You’ve done it so many times that it almost feels robotic. You sit, stand, kneel, and say your responses. 

….But why?

A thought starts slowly creeping into your mind: Am I seeing the whole picture? Many Catholics have a lackluster experience at Mass. They know they should feel more, but at times it can be a fight through the monotony. 

We see fewer people are going to Mass in many places, and many don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If they are feeling like this, it’s no wonder. They feel stuck. 

In this article, we’ll help you get unstuck. You will begin to see how much more there is to the Mass than what you see on the surface. 

The Mass will start to come alive for you. You will find yourself wanting to come back as often as you can. And perhaps someday soon, you won’t be able to get enough. 

Discover the Amazing Riches of the Catholic Faith

What We Believe presents and explains the essential teachings of the Catholic Faith in a readable, approachable way.

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Here’s the plan:

We’re about to hop into a time machine, where you will see how each aspect of the Mass literally transcends the bounds of time. 

At Mass each Sunday, you are no longer in the present. You are transported through time and space to Calvary as a witness to Christ’s death and resurrection.

It’s like Back to the Future but cooler. 

God and Time

As human beings, we are bound by time. We can’t live in any other moment than the present. The past is written in stone, and the future is unreachable. We are confined by the seconds, the minutes, and the hours. 

But God doesn’t have this limitation. 

God is not bound by time. 

He is in the past, the present, and the future, providing help and graces in all places on the time continuum.

The sacrifice that Jesus offered once and for all was a unique act. He was a real man, so it was an act that took place at a particular time and place in the past. But Jesus is also true God, who is outside time and lives in the eternal present. Past and future are always present to him. 

This means that the actions of Christ on Calvary and on Easter Sunday morning are not only human acts taking place in history but also eternal, divine acts that can be made present in all times and places by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is what happens in the Eucharist. The power of the Cross—the atoning sacrifice that forgives, liberates, heals, and reconciles—becomes present and available to us, allowing us to enter this great mystery.

As wonderful as this is, the Cross is incomplete without the Resurrection (see Romans 4:25). The entire paschal mystery, Jesus’ exodus from this world into glory, is a single saving event, and the Eucharist is its memorial. This means that the Resurrection too is made present every time the Eucharist is celebrated. 

When we go to Mass, we are at the foot of the Cross as the Savior gives his life for us. Yet we are also outside the empty tomb with the risen Jesus and the women who encountered him on that wonderful morning

The Mass thus becomes the offering of the entire Body of Christ, its Head and members, as we fully enter into the paschal mystery of Christ—his death and resurrection.

The privilege of sharing in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice is symbolized beautifully just before the consecration, when the priest mixes a few drops of water with the wine. The paltry sacrifice of our lives is like the water that is absorbed into the rich sacrifice of Christ’s Blood, symbolized by the wine.

But nothing is small in God’s eyes. From the vantage point of eternity, our seemingly small offerings here in Christ can move mountains. Our entire lives, our struggles and triumphs, become eminently more meaningful in Christ—far more than we could ever imagine!

The Mass is like a time machine that enables us to take part in the singular sacrifice of Christ through time and space. God grabs our hand and transports us through time, giving us a window into his infinite nature. 

Seeing God in the mystery of his vastness, we realize in a beautiful way how small we are. We have a God who daily gives us free front-row seats to our salvation. 

Discover the Amazing Riches of the Catholic Faith

What We Believe presents and explains the essential teachings of the Catholic Faith in a readable, approachable way.

See a free preview!

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio (“Dr. Italy”) received his Ph.D. in historical theology from The Catholic University of America under the direction of Avery Cardinal Dulles and has had a prolific career as a Catholic author, internationally-respected speaker, pilgrimage leader, and university professor. He is the Co-founder and Director of The Crossroads Initiative, the author of five books and hundreds of articles, and a regular guest on both secular and Catholic TV and radio programs. In 2004, Dr. D’Ambrosio co-authored the New York Times bestseller A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about The Passion of the Christ with Ascension Founder Matt Pinto. In 2019, Dr. D’Ambrosio published the groundbreaking Bible study on the life of Jesus Christ filmed in the Holy Land, Jesus: The Way, the Truth, and the Life, presenting alongside Jeff Cavins and Dr. Edward Sri. He is also the co-author and presenter of What We Believe: The Beauty of the Catholic Faith.

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  • I live alone and my home is my church. The daily Ascension emails, Bishop Barron, Amen & Formed are a big part of my morning and start to the day. The Sunday Mass from Bishop Barron is something that I look forward to. Each evening I enjoy The Bible in a year. These readings have only strengthened my faith and understanding. Through out the day I speak to our Heavenly Father, this gives me great comfort.
    When I was a baby I was Christened Anglican, my dear friend is Catholic and has helped me so much with my religious
    Your article regarding Mass has certainly opened my eyes further. Very well written, I will save in my iPad.
    However I am a transgendered female, and wanted to be a girl before I even understood about the Bible and faith, that is how God created me through my mother and father. With my strong faith and gender I am the happiest and most enlightening that I have been. Even if God feels that I am a sinner, I will always pray to the One I Love and put my trust in Him.
    One day I will attend church, but with the virus I will keep my home as my Church until things settle down.

    • We are all sinners. It is when we accept Jesus that He takes our sins from us. God sees us through His Son Jesus. He accepts us for who we are and loves us unconditionally. It is a hard concept to accept as the world tells us we are unacceptable. Know that God loves you and sent Jesus just for you. Even if there were no other sinners, Jesus would have died for you.

  • I’ve always wondered about how the lack of being restricted by time in heaven affects us here on Earth. I’ve wondered if praying for a loved one that passed decades ago is as efficacious as praying for the recently departed. I’ve wondered if we could pray for Jesus to ease His pain through the scourging and crucifixion. Though I suppose since that occurred in the past of our time stream, that gets a little unlikely… but maybe not. This is an interesting article and it made me consider all the things that I don’t know about time and how it affects anyone no longer living in time as we know it. I really like the idea that somehow our reverence and thankfulness for Christ’s sacrifice may span time in a way that we could not affect, but which is facilitated through Jesus.

  • Thank you for the reminder of what the mass is. When I am truely present at the mass, I do get so much out of it. There is a lot of repetition and that is where I get into daydreaming sometimes. I wonder if God really deems it necessary for all those ritualistic prayers the priest does before communion. I’m sure the church has a reason for such repetition.

    • I’m not sure exactly what “believer” is referring to as repetition; however I do find that if I concentrate on the words being said they can be very valuable toward enhancing my sense of worship. For example along with the enumeration of the saints who are in heaven, at that time I have the opportunity to unite myself with them as we worship together our precious Lord Jesus and offer his sacrifice to the Father. This is a reality to me in the spiritual realm where their is no time or space and a wondrous time to be united again as well with my own “familial” saints who have preceded me in going to our eternal home.

  • “The privilege of sharing in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice is symbolized beautifully just before the consecration, when the priest mixes a few drops of water with the wine.”

    I loved the article and look forward to the study. I have one comment about the above sentence.

    “Symbolized?” With so many people confusing the Eucharist as a “symbol” of Jesus’ body and blood, a better word would have been “demonstrated.”

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