Experiencing God’s Goodness
Dear Friends in Christ:
The psalmist asks, “How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me?” ~ Ps 116:12
God is good and He truly does things for us! St. John Vianney, our patron, frequently used the phrase Mon Bon Dieu (my Good God) or Le Bon Dieu (The Good God). In his writings, one can easily see St. John Vianney’s love for God and his sense of being overwhelmed by the infinite goodness of the Lord. Like Sts. Paul, Augustine and Therese (along with the Cure’ in The Diary of a Country Priest), we too can see that Tout est grace –Everything is a grace! God’s grace and goodness are everywhere – in good times and in bad, in times of plenty and in times of need, in suffering and in jubilation! Yet in a most excellent and wonderful way, God’s grace, His goodness, His holiness, His divine presence is at Holy Mass!
The psalmist answers his own question, “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people…I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord in the presence of all of his people!” ~ Ps 116:13-14,17-18
We can see the beautiful connection to the Eucharist. God’s goodness to us and our thanksgiving for that goodness is experienced in the Mass. The Mass enables us not only to offer thanks for the goodness we have been blessed to receive, it is itself a blessing, an experience of God’s goodness to us! Think of it. By coming to offer Mass to thank God for the gifts we have received, we receive a gift! The gift we receive at Mass is not just any gift but the gift of Jesus himself! In the IV Common Preface for Weekday Mass, we pray, ‘Lord, you have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift.’ How true! Yet how often this is neglected or ignored.
St. John Vianney himself lamented that people of his parish would “get up with a sudden rush. They hurry. They jostle at the door. Often the priest has not even come down from the altar before they are out the door!” Sound familiar? To these people the saint asks, “Do you know what the result of this kind of thing is?” “This is it!” he responds, “People derive no profit, no gain from what they experienced in the House of the God!” He then adds, “What a misfortune this is, to turn to our loss what should have helped so much to save us!”
In our world of constant and immediate entertainment, we need to slow down and be quiet. In a world of fast food, we need to learn again how to taste and savor. In a world filled with negativity and criticism, we need to ponder and reflect on the smallest good and kindness. What we get out of the Mass, as St. John Vianney teaches us, depends on what we put into the Mass. Seeing God and experiencing His goodness is not like reading a tweet, watching a YouTube video or going to the ballgame.
Some helpful suggestions on how to get more out of the Mass for you and your family – read the scripture readings at home ahead of time and then arrive at Mass early. After genuflecting and entering the pew, say hello to the Lord and thank Him for letting you be with him at that moment. Then, go over your week in your mind. What went right? Where did God bless you or help you? Pray for someone you know in need. Before Mass begins, ask God to help you offer a true thanksgiving. Ask him to open your heart and your mind to what He wants to give you during the Mass. Ask him to help you offer a generous thanksgiving for your blessings. Ask him to accept and bless your offering. Pray silently in your mind and heart along with the priest during prayers of the Mass, especially the Eucharistic Prayer. After Mass do not jump up right away. Sit still for a moment, kneel down. Thank God for being able to come to Mass and ask for His blessings for the upcoming week. After church, talk to someone about what you heard at Mass (the scripture readings, the homily, the prayers). Share with someone what you prayed about, what you were touched by or something good that you gained, perhaps a new insight or an affirmation. Ask the kids about what they heard God say to them. Ask them what they experienced at Mass. Ask them what is their favorite moment and why. Share with the kids, your spouse, a friend, how the Lord has been good to you. Allow the Mass to reverberate and resonate throughout your week. Maybe repeat the Psalm response throughout the week in your daily prayers. Go back to Sunday Mass again in your mind and in your daily prayers. Like the scent of a beautiful perfume, let the Mass and the Lord’s goodness linger in your mind and your heart.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately