There’s a reason so many job interviews include the question “What does success look like?” Whether the interviewer or interviewee asks the question, it clarifies expectations for everyone. It helps in other settings too. A family traveling to Disneyland can use it to determine whether a successful trip means waiting in line to ride the most popular rides, meeting as many of the characters as possible or relaxing by the pool at the hotel.
In this time when Catholics think about the “last things,” each of us can benefit by asking what success looks like for us. Ultimately, success depends upon our closeness to God.
Fortunately, Jesus provided us the Eucharist as a way to come closer to God. Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, in his book What Happens at Mass, describes how the celebration of Mass provides us an experience — though we often don’t perceive it at the time — of the heavenly banquet God has prepared for the end of time. Mass is the closest we can come to seeing what success looks like in ordinary life.
A Catholic who participates in Mass each Sunday over three years will hear much of the Old and New Testaments. These readings, arranged throughout the liturgical year, enable us to interpret our lives through the lens of salvation history — the narrative of how God created us in love, how sin makes God seem far away, and how God comes to us in Jesus to bring us close again. This interpretive key prepares us to receive God’s grace.
The prayers we offer at Mass provide a template for prayers we can offer to God through our week — saying we’re sorry through the penitential rite, asking for help during the prayer of the faithful, saying thank you and preparing to listen to God in the eucharistic prayer. The Mass teaches us to respond to God.
It also teaches us how to love one another. A family that participates in Mass each week learns from the words of Jesus how to treat one another. Our family has had plenty of squabbles on the way to Mass: “Do we really have to go?” “Make her stop staring at me!” But we always come away feeling closer to each other.
Participating in the Eucharist also gives us the opportunity to say yes to God. In the Eucharist, Jesus presents himself to us — body, blood, soul and divinity. Reception of Communion is our “Yes” to him.
Some people must stay away from Mass because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the obstacles many of us face — distractions, disillusionment or the desire for a lazy Sunday morning — these we must overcome.
Jesus’ sacrifice of himself is re-presented for us each Sunday so that we can respond with a small sacrifice of our own. He has come to meet us. Will we go to meet him? Success in life looks like saying “Yes.”
Northwest Catholic - November 2020
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at email@example.com.
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: firstname.lastname@example.org.