One of the most common phrases you’ll hear critics say about mass is, “I don’t get anything out of the mass.” In this article, I want to zoom in on this typical expression to see what is going on under the surface of this phrase. However, before I do this I need to do what pole vaulters do. I need to back way up so we can take a running start at this topic.
If you’ve watched the show Intervention on A&E or you’ve ever been to the hospital, you know the obvious fact that the job of a doctor, interventionist, or therapist is to first deliver the patient the bad news of their sickness or addiction. The next move is to help them out of the bad news and into the solution. Now, delivering the bad news is difficult, but when given with care the doctor or interventionist is usually successful in helping the patient to the end result – the cure for their illness. The problem becomes desperate when the patient does not know they are sick or thinks their addiction is actually a good thing. If the addict flaunts their addiction and defends it, the interventionist needs to go more direct in their approach to get the patient to realize their problem. After all, the solution to get help is meaningless unless the patient realizes there is a problem.
I recall seeing this idea played out one day when I was watching the Dr. Phil show. On this show, there was a sort of intervention set up with a woman who suffered from bulimia. The bulimic woman was physically frail. It was clear by her appearance she had a serious problem. The sad part is that she did not think she had a problem. In fact, she began to defend her lifestyle as healthy and in fact necessary. Clearly, she made this idea up in her head so as to avoid letting go her addiction. As a good interventionist, Dr. Phil saw right through this. His method became more direct to her because he had to snap the woman out of her damaging delusion. He had her stand in front of a mirror and asked her a serious of questions about her lifestyle. She had to answer these questions while looking at herself in the mirror. In order to help this woman, Dr. Phil had to show her how pathetic her lifestyle made her. By exposing her sickness to her, he was simultaneously helping her recover from her addiction to save her life.
Now, we will apply the above scenario with the sickness of the entire human race. If you know the basic understanding of the Christian assessment of the human condition you know that Christianity declares we are all sick. This is what sin is – although most people have become numb or annoyed to the word “sin” so to accommodate I’ll use the word “sick” instead. What is the great human sickness? It is ourselves. Namely, it is pride – the first of the seven deadly sicknesses (sins). Pride is all geared to the self. Whereas the humble person seeks to find the truth, in pride, the self determines the truth. The ego of the self knows all and becomes the center of everything. Additionally, in pride, all thoughts are geared to “what can I get.” When pride occurs, death of the soul occurs. This idea makes sense on the physical level as we can understand that life does not come internally from the self, but from outside the self. I didn’t create myself. The origin of my life came from outside of me (God – and secondarily through my descendants). So, given that physical life comes outside the self we now see that when all our thoughts are geared solely to the self, death of the soul will soon follow. In other words, what fuels the human soul is giving of the self, not getting for the self. After all, God’s original soul in us is pointing to giving up the self for the good of the other. With pride, this is reversed to getting for the self by using the other.
So, we now see that self-worship is the human sickness we need to expose and get rid of. This means that the greatest addiction in the world is the addiction of our self-centered way of thinking. Let’s now demonstrate this in concrete terms. I usually speak in front of both adults and teenagers alike. To show the human problem within I’ll ask a couple questions. I’ll first ask how many people would like the ability to read other people’s minds. Most hands will go up on being able to read other’s thoughts. Then, I ask how many people would like it if other people could read your mind and really know what you are thinking? Not only can people know what you are thinking but they also know the motivation behind your thoughts. They can know why you are thinking this way. When I present this scenario to the group, it never fails – no one’s hand goes up. Why are people so uncomfortable if others can read their mind and know their deep hidden internal agenda? Because it would expose how corrupted and self-centered our thoughts really are. Bingo – hello human sickness called pride. Most everything with think about stems from the old sickness of human pride – what’s in it for me, I need to look good, what do I get out of this.
Given this, let’s now zoom in on the phrase that not only demonstrates the problem but also shows how we flaunt our problem. We now come back to that typical slogan we hear from non-practicing Catholics: “I don’t get anything out of the mass.” Most likely, this will be one of the main reasons they no longer go to mass. How do I know? Because I’ve said the same phrase and I’ve heard it countless times.
Now, there is a major flaw with the statement “I don’t get anything of mass” that I will expose for the reader. In this rather predictable phrase, we see two words that jump out that should trigger the warning signs of the problem. The two words that display the problem are “I” and “get.” With these two words, the person is merely demonstrating the human sickness of pride we want to avoid. This phrase means that the mass is geared to simply entertaining me like I’m some sort of child at a party. So, we use God to entertain us. The words “I” and “get” suggest that the relationship between God and us is all geared to what I selfishly get. We don’t use ourselves to serve God , we use God to serve us so we can get an entertaining show or a nice warm tingly feeling. At this stage, we are back to bland self-worship.
Now, we can see this when we understand the relationship between man and God parallels the relationship between a child and parent. After all, God is called Father and family language is all over the entirety of the Bible. Given this fact, we can see we love ourselves more than God. In other words, we love the being that didn’t create us (ourselves) more than the Being that did create us (God). Now, a parent can understand this because any good parent would say they love their children more than themselves, and they care more about their children more than they care about themselves. However, the child loves themselves more than they love the parents. So, the parent goes beyond themselves to love the child while the child cares less about the parent and instead loves themselves. Well, it’s the same way with God and us – only we are now in the position of the child with God. The child uses the parent to get what they want. Bingo – this is exactly how we as adults act towards God. We use God to get what we want, and this is displayed very clearly in that childlike phrase – “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.”
Jesus said he came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45). Hard as it is, we are called to follow the lead of Jesus. If you attend a certain type of church just so you get something out of it, than you have fallen into the trap of simply wanted to be served or entertained – using God so you can selfishly get something out of it. Now, serving God means to go beyond your desires and to follow the desires of the Father “to do this” (Eucharist) for Him. Ironically, when you “do this” you really do get something – you get God himself literally in you. (see Luke 22: 19-20). Therefore, it’s not that pleasure seeking is a bad thing in itself. In fact, the totality of the Biblical story is built around how one attains fulfillment, peace, and “pleasure seeking.” The key question is what is the source of your pleasure seeking? What entity are you following to seek pleasure? Is a person following the pleasure seeking messages of the pop culture or of God’s entity in the Church? Indeed, the lives of the saints prove that real pleasure seeking is done through the Church over and above the pop culture’s idea of pleasure seeking.
Now, we can see that pleasure seeking in the pop culture is based on using someone for the benefit of yourself whereas pleasure seeking for the Church is based on using yourself for the good of someone else. To demonstrate this imagine a parent throws a great feast for the child. We can use the feast of Thanksgiving as a prime example. The parent brings together the family and wants to have a grand celebration that will unite the family together and bring the child closer to their life source – their family. What kind of reaction would the parent have if the child told the parent, “I don’t get anything out of Thanksgiving.” The parent would naturally sigh and be disappointed that the child doesn’t fully grasp the family banquet and instead views everything only in terms of what he can selfishly “get something out of.” In this situation, the child puts nothing into the relationship with the parent but instead uses the parent as a means to serve himself. Thus, the pleasure seeking of the pop culture reigns supreme in this scenario – using someone else for your entertainment. Well, this is the same kind of self-absorbed logic is on full display with the “I don’t get anything out of mass” idea. In the mass, the God of the universe comes to us in order to heal our souls for eternity and our rather pathetic response is: “I don’t get anything.” Can this phrase be anymore self-absorbed and ungrateful? Imagine a child’s response to the the question of what do you think of your parents was: “I don’t get anything out of them.” What is more loving – a child that uses their parent as a way to get something out of them, or a child that listens to their parent so the parent can help them? It’s the same concept with God only on a much higher level.
Now we can see the “I don’t get anything out of the mass” statement is nothing more than old-fashioned self-worship promoted by the pop culture. And here lies the root of the dilemma. When someone acknowledges that they are a sinner (soul is sick), they are acknowledging that their thoughts and desires are messed up. So, given that we know our desires are flawed, why would we dismiss the solution to the problem (the mass) by our own problem (flawed desires)? When a person complains that the mass is not entertaining their desires, it is as problematic as an obese person complaining that their personal trainer does not help with their junk food cravings.
Jesus came not to give us what we want but to give us what we need. As he stated, he came much like a doctor for the sick (see Mark 2:17). Imagine a cancer patient telling his doctor “I don’t get anything out of coming to the hospital.” Now, a good doctor cares less about giving the patient what they want, but rather gives them what they need. The whole idea in Christianity is that are wants are messed up – so to place more emphasis on your wants over your needs is highly problematic.
Whenever you hear someone say “I don’t get anything out of mass” what they are really getting at is they’re bored at mass because their flawed desires want to be entertained. But, the problem is they’ve let their flawed thoughts become their guide. Why would a person reject the medicine they need in the mass and instead choose the very thing that grows their sickness (pleasure of the self)? Here, we see the crux of the problem. Sadly, people do not fully understand that their thoughts (soul) are sick and rather than receive an antidote for their sickness (the mass) they want to have their sickness grow (entertain me). The fact that someone is so hung up on being entertained just shows how much the pop culture has compromised that person. If a person reaches the stage in which they view that the mass needs to be as exciting and entertaining as everything else in the pop culture (pleasure seeking) than sadly all this indicates is that their real god is the pop culture. They will also demand that the Church must bow down to the ways of the pop culture. Sadly, this person has been duped by the pop culture and rather than seek refuge with the solution (the mass) they continue to drink the gruel of the pop culture and dismiss the medicine of the mass as “boring.” What would we think if a cocaine addict complained his treatment center was too boring because they didn’t give him the excitement in his cocaine? We would think that this is precisely why the drug addict needs to be in a treatment center. In this analogy the cocaine is the pop culture’s idea of pleasures of the self and the treatment center is the mass.
When people recite the “I don’t get anything out of mass” statement, I suspect they want to come across as some sort of enlightened guru. However, what they don’t know is this slogan is embarrassing to them. If you’ve ever been in a bar, you know the worst person there is the drunk who doesn’t know they are drunk. At least a drunk who knows he is drunk won’t keep talking to everyone like he’s some sort of expert. Plus, he will seek refuge with a glass of water and a drive home to cure him. So, this person will seek an ailment to their problem. The drunk who doesn’t know they are drunk will keep taking down their drinks and talk to everyone like he’s so “brilliant.” Folks, when people keep chanting “I don’t get anything out of Mass” they are in the same position as the drunk that doesn’t know they are drunk. They want to come across as wise, but in fact, they really come across as a fool. They continue to take down the drink of pride and don’t seek refuge in the Mass – which would be their glass of water and drive home to bed.
I need to expose this problem to the person who chants, “I don’t get anything out of the mass” just like Dr. Phil needed to expose the bulimic woman to the mirror so she can see how crummy her lifestyle makes her look. So, to see the human sickness, I need to show this person the mirror into their soul. At first, it is going to be an ugly, uncomfortable glimpse because our soul is so messed up. When Dr. Phil showed the bulimic women herself in the mirror, she began to see how nasty her lifestyle looked. It deteriorated her body, and this phrase deteriorates our soul. Now, I hope the reader can understand how childish, pathetic, and self-absorbed this phrase is just like Dr. Phil hoped the bulimic woman could see how sad her lifestyle made her be. But, the good news is that once you see how bad the x-ray of your soul is, you’ll be ready to run to the Divine doctor so he can heal you. Jesus said he came for the sick, but only when you know you are sick will you go to him. So, showing someone the inner ugliness of their soul is actually a loving gesture. Jesus can only enter a person when he or she fully understand the foulness of their soul. Much of the problem today is people don’t know they are sick. Therefore, of course they view the Church as meaningless – you don’t go to the hospital when you think you are healthy. But, as soon as you know you are sick – you’ll be more likely to run to the hospital (the church).
It’s rather sad that this selfish slogan has become so predictable. I at least hope we take a look at the mirror in our soul and realize what that bulimic woman realized when she looked in the mirror. That is, our soul is in bad shape and needs desperate help. This “I don’t get anything out of the mass” phrase is proof of how bad it is. Once we know we are sick, we will begin to experience healing.
Going to the mass is like going to the hospital. It’s not supposed to feel good at first, but if you keep going and learn more about the methods, the procedures, the medicine, and realize how much the doctors and nurses gave up to serve your sick soul, you’ll fall more in love with it.