#22 Sacrifice, Grace and Distraction

Dear Doctimus Prime,
There is this recurrent trend that disturbs me whenever I think of it. It is almost commonplace to find young people clicking away on their phones when Mass is going on. I wonder what to attribute it to; is it boredom or insensitivity or an outlandish disregard for the sacred? I was coming to help out with the distribution of communion one Sunday morning when I noticed three kids huddled together and completely rapt in something they were watching. I stood by their side for what seemed like forever without getting them to notice my presence. I had to smack one across the head before the others could notice and the one with the phone made a disgraceful effort to hide it. They were watching him play games. More recently it was a lady who was playing games while Mass was on. She chose to stay outside because she needed “freedom”. I am not sure from what exactly.


I have stopped seizing or returning phones because it is of little help to the persons involved. It seems to me that what they need is a good understanding of who they are and what they are supposed to be doing at Mass. I had the occasion recently to ask a group of kids what The Mass is. One of them, speaking for the rest, said that it is “the SACRIFICE of the true body and blood of Christ, together with His soul and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine, and offered to God for the living and the dead.” This is a very apt description of what the mass is.


The Mass in which the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated is first of all a sacrament, that sacred symbol that signifies and causes grace. Sacraments employ physical elements, gestures and words to confer God’s grace on the recipients who have truly disposed themselves to receive them. Through the Sacraments, we worship the divine majesty and celebrate his love for us by which He created, redeemed and continuously sanctifies us. The Sacraments are effective means of receiving graces because God is at its heart. The Sacraments nourish, strengthen and express faith. The graces which we enjoy in the sacraments were won for us through the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ by which he redeemed and reconciled humanity to the Father. So whenever you receive the sacraments you are reaping the fruits of Christ’s work of redemption. These sacraments are seven in number namely: Baptism (Mt 28:18,19), Confirmation (Jn20:23; Acts 19:6), Holy Eucharist (Lk 22:19,20; Jn 6:53), Penance (Jn 20:23), Anointing of the Sick (James 5:14), Holy Orders (Heb 5:1-10, 2Tim 1:6; Ps 110:4) and Matrimony (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5,6). But the sacrament which we can receive everyday is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.


The Holy Eucharist which is offered to us when we attend Mass is Jesus Himself who died on the Cross to take away our sins (1Pt 3:18). Within the Mass, the Church fulfils Christ’s last will and testament to re-enact the sacrifice of his death in an unbloody manner. This is so that all who come to this altar can participate anew in the work of redemption by which they are saved (cf. 1Cor 11:24; Lk 22:19). At Mass, Christ is the Priest who offers a spotless sacrifice to the Father. He is the victim who is sacrificed and the altar on which the victim is sacrificed. This means that the Priest does not act in his own name and the words and actions he performs are done in the person of Christ (persona Christi).

Family praying in church

The interesting part to the sacrifice of the Mass is that everyone present is also exercising their priestly office and participating with the Priest in offering God the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. Every baptised Catholic receives a threefold ministry of PROPHET, KING AND PRIEST. This is why the first Letter of St Peter calls Christians a chosen race, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD and a holy nation (1Pt 2:9). This common priesthood of the Church is exercised when the Priest invites the people to offer the sacrifice with him with the words, “Pray my brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” The people add their voice of consent by saying, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the grace and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.”


The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the highest point of the Church’s prayer, it is the point when Jesus is offered to God as a thanksgiving offering (Eucharist, from Grk. Eucharistia, meaning ‘Thanksgiving’). It is clearly not a time for distraction of any sort. This is the point in our prayer when we are closest to God, to heaven itself. Would it be out of place to say that it is nothing short of outrage for anyone to distract Himself at this most solemn moment of the Mass? God wishes to impart graces to souls. But when a person distracts himself or makes themselves an occasion of distraction for others, they call down curses on themselves because they have failed to understand that there is a clear distinction between the sacred and the profane, between the finite and infinite, between God and humans and God wishes to come closer to us. When you come to Church and you are not attentive to the Word of God, you do not listening to the words of the homily or participate in the sacrifice of the Eucharist, you are necessarily doing evil and bringing curses upon yourself.