We are an Easter people! Christ has overcome death. The sting of death no longer binds humanity which was saved by Christ.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Cor. 15:55
There is something unspeakable and sublime about the Mass. There is a pervading presence, like an all seeing eye that one cannot escape. One time during the Mass, before the homily, all the sins which I committed, even from my childhood, flashed before my mind in an instant. I felt like I was at the Judgment seat of God and I felt really terrible, like I was being strangled and I could not breathe. I felt like there was not a single sin that God missed. He knew all my sins, from the least to the most grievous. I wished the ground would open so I could escape from His all seeing eye. I had no defense. I agreed with the guilty verdict of God. I stood there rigid and petrified. All I could do was weep and tell God to be merciful to me for the sake of His most beloved Son, Jesus. Before the eyes of God, Jesus was all I could think of as my only recourse. It happened so quickly and was over in about ten seconds. Then I could breathe freely again.
Everything about our faith and our relationship with God is internal. It all takes place in our hearts, minds and soul. What really happens inside us is between God and us alone. External manifestations and outward ceremonies that we take part in may or may not really reflect our true spiritual state. Sometimes, we can even fake it before other people. There enters now the significance of the word “Integrity” from the Latin word “integer” meaning “wholeness.” To have integrity before God is to be whole, complete, to be consistent from the inside to the outside.
Since that first experience, I have become very sensitive during the Mass. I am always confronted with my true self because it is the Spirit of God which pierces through the deepest recesses of my heart, mind and soul. The first time I started going to Mass everyday, I could not stand this experience of being like under a scalpel and all the gangrenes of my heart, so to speak, were being probed and dissected. It was the opposite of what I expected would happen to me if I went to Mass daily. I thought I would become a holy person if I did. What happened was God showed the real state of myself to me. I was horrified about the many dark things I saw in me. I was humbled and humiliated until I learned to accept the true condition of myself. What helped me during that despairing period of horrendous self-knowledge was my patron saint, the Little Saint, St. Therese and her “Doctrine of Littleness.” She taught me how to love my littleness before the perfection of God. In my littleness, I saw even more the Majesty and Grandeur of God. And as a helpless child, I felt all the more God’s mercy and love.
My experience inside the church during the Mass has not changed. I still go through that penetrating gaze of God every time. But my attitude has changed. I treat every Mass like imagining how it would be like in heaven. There I will stand before God and account for everything to Him. I remember a time when the priest asked the Mass goers to greet one another peace with a happy Easter smile. Being ultra sensitive that I am during the Mass, I noticed the people who could not even look at those near to them and around them. Some did not even bother to move their heads and just looked steadily in front of them. Then I thought, in heaven, we cannot be with people whom we have not forgiven and who have not forgiven us, because in heaven, we will have to look at those near to us and around us, move our heads and our eyes around and smile at them all. I cannot choose the people that I will smile at in heaven. I will have to smile at all of them in heaven, or I will not be there.
A smile is something external but it comes all the way from the very internal spirit of the person. In heaven, the least that I can give is my smile, to all and all alike, without exception. I should get a lot of practice for that smile while still here on earth, every time I hear Mass.