Mass is the most important way in which Catholics worship together, as this is where we encounter Jesus. The Church calls Mass the source and the summit of the Christian life. Since the time of the Apostles, we have celebrated of the mysteries of Jesus's Death and Resurrection through the Mass.
The Mass is a spiritual meal and is structured much like other good meals we might enjoy with friends and family. We greet each other, we share stories and related ideas, and we prepare and partake in a meal. We return, each of us to where we came from, full of something good.
The Mass has two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which are placed in between Introductory and Concluding Rites.
Liturgy of the Word
The liturgy of the Word is about hearing the word of God. We begin with a reading from the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible includes histories, poetry, songs, prophesies, and genealogies, all of which tell a story about the relationship between God and humanity.
We reply to the first reading by together singing a Psalm, a response to God's word.
We also hear from New Testament. This may be a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, or from the letters written between early Christian communities. These readings are witness to the faith of the early church and carry the evangelical message and instruction of the Apostles.
Finally, the presiding priest will read from the Gospels. These are the four accounts of Jesus’s life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They contain stories from his ministry, his relationship with his disciples, and his teachings. The Gospels reveal Jesus in his words and his deeds. He hear about the people he met during his time here on Earth, and the wonderful parables he told about the Kingdom of God. They also recount the glorious mystery of his Death and Resurrection. We believe Jesus is the Word of God, so when the gospel is read aloud, we believe that Jesus is present with us. For this reading, we stand.
The Scripture is broken down for us in the form of a Homily by the priest. He offers his reflection and some context for the readings. Priests apply the ideas and events in the readings at Mass to the world of today. The homily is not less than the reading; it is the same. The homily is the Word communicated into our lives today.
Because Mass is a conversation in which we are an active participant, we respond to the Liturgy of the Word by standing as a community and saying the Apostle's Creed, identifying ourselves with the continuity of the Church. We also bring our intentions and the concerns to God in the form of the prayers of the faithful.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
The liturgy of the Eucharist is where we enter into and become participants in the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross. We recount the events of The Last Supper where he made a new covenant between God and humanity, and we are nourished by the sacred meal of the Eucharist.
Catholics believe that in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ.
"Then he took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' And the cup similarly after supper saying, 'this cup is the new covenant in my blood, poured out for you.'" Luke 22:19-20
When we gather as a community around the altar, we are present with Catholics all around the world and with every Mass that has ever been celebrated. We are all part of Christ's sacrifice and we are in communion with the whole of the Church throughout history and into eternity. It is together with all the Church that we are worshiping, giving thanks, sharing our prayers and hopes, and being nourished by receiving Jesus as food for the work to do. It is remaining in this communion that makes us Catholic, and it is an important part of how we practise Faith.
The word Mass comes from one of the last things that happen at a Mass: the Dismissal, where we are sent out, empowered by the Eucharist and through our unity with each other. We have a job to do, which is to make Jesus present in our everyday lives, and to live out the love of Christ at work or school, in our families, and with the strangers we meet. As Catholics, we are called to be that which we have received at Mass.