Monday, March 14, 2016

Pet Peeve: Leaving Mass Early

Trivia question: Who was the first person in history to leave Mass right after Communion? Answer: Judas Iscariot.

No, I’m not kidding. Think about it. Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He held up the bread and said, “This is my body,” and then he held up the cup and said, “This is my blood.”

Then, right after He distributed the bread and wine to His disciples—which now had become His actual body and blood—Judas got up and left. Judas didn’t go back to his pew and pray a little. He didn’t listen to any of the parish announcements about the upcoming potluck supper and the revised children’s choir rehearsal schedule. And he didn’t join in singing the recessional hymn. (Two verses only. I mean, let’s not go overboard and sing EVERY verse.)

Nope, by the time the solemn ceremony in the upper room was concluded, Judas was long gone. Presumably his car was not blocked in the parking lot, so he was able to make his getaway rather than sit behind the wheel seething with frustration as he waited for everyone else to come out.

Sound familiar? C’mon, be honest. Many of our fellow Catholics have this weird notion that once you receive Communion the Mass is over. But to paraphrase that great Catholic theologian, Yogi Berra, the Mass ain’t over till it’s over.

When someone leaves Mass right after Communion (the ol’ “chew and screw,” as it’s sometimes called), how much actual time is he or she saving? Six minutes? Nine minutes? Seriously? That’s it? A person offends the Lord and insults the parish priest just to gain a measly nine minutes? Wow.

And what exactly is accomplished with those extra six or nine minutes on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning? Do they get out of the parking lot first? Hurray, I guess there’s a prize for that.

Do they get a table at the Sunday brunch buffet a bit sooner than others? Congratulations, I’m sure the restaurant would’ve run out of food if they got there nine minutes later.

Do they get home quicker, which allows them to spend the rest of the day sitting around watching mindless junk on TV? God must be so pleased with their devotion to Him.

OK, I’m getting a little too snarky here. Sorry.

The point I’m trying to make is: The Mass is the most awesome event on earth: Jesus Christ becomes truly present in the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity. At Mass, God’s people gather to offer praise and worship to Him, and to be spiritually nourished by Him. Is it really such a burden to remain in church until the Mass is completely concluded?

Our Sunday obligation only takes up about one hour every week. If we add on some time before and after Mass for driving, let’s call it two hours each week—out of a total of 168 hours in a week. That works out to be slightly more than one-percent of the entire week. Heck, some people spend more time than that each week combing their hair or deciding what shoes to wear.

Is that extra nine minutes saved by leaving Mass right after Communion really worth it?

Obviously people who leave Mass right after Communion are not doing it for the same reason Judas left the very first Mass right after Communion: to betray Our Lord. But leaving early certainly does not honor Our Lord. It certainly does not show Him much respect.

So if you always remain in church until the very end of the recessional hymn, that’s terrific. Please try not to be as snarky as I am toward those who leave early.

And if you are one of the folks who does leave right after Communion, please think about it for a minute. It really looks bad; it insults the priest; and it shows little respect for Jesus. 

When it’s all said and done, is that measly nine minutes really so important?

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