Mass Starts Before The Gospel – Arriving Late For Mass

Mass Starts Before The Gospel – Arriving Late For Mass March 14, 2024

“We’ll be there for the homily. What’s the big deal?” Brandon and his friend Dave were heading to Sunday Mass but had gotten off to a late start. Brandon was upset that they were going to arrive late, and his friend Dave wanted to reassure him that it was no big deal. After all, the most important thing about the Mass is the Eucharistic Celebration, so they would still be able to witness that and receive communion. Why is it so bad to arrive late for Mass?

Mass as a United Whole

Brandon was upset, though, because he knew that the Mass was a united whole. It made no sense to show up as late as the Gospel or the homily and for it to still “count” for the Sunday obligation. He had heard such a tale many times growing up but he knew it was not the case.

The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form “one single act of worship”; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of the Lord. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1346).

Different Parts of the Mass

Fr. Bill, who had been their chaplain at college, had done a good job of sharing with them the importance of appreciating each moment of the mass. While the Mass is essentially a sacrifice, every part of it is interdependent upon the others. Thus, it would be a mistake to look down at the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, as unnecessary. Dave should have remembered the importance of the gathering, the penitential rite, and the readings before being so lax about arriving late.

The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly, this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 56)

The Mass is a Sacrifice — but not Only a Sacrifice

The Second Vatican Council Fathers were aware of the need to emphasize the entire mass. Centuries of focusing on the Mass as a sacrifice had brought forth good fruits in terms of the awareness of the Eucharist’s importance. However, this had led some people to exaggerate the importance of the Eucharistic prayer to the detriment of the readings, grossly minimizing the importance of Sacred Scripture within the Eucharistic Celebration. It could almost seem that they were writing for Dave when they emphasized the importance of Sacred Scripture in the document Dei Verbum.

The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body. (Dei Verbum, 21)

Real Presence of Christ

Christ is present in four ways during Mass. He is present in the person of the minister, the priest. Further, Jesus is present through the Eucharistic species. By his power, Jesus is present always through the celebration of the sacraments. Finally, he is present in the Word of God. Often, we focus on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is important and a foundational aspect of our faith. However, we would be remiss to lose sight of the importance of the Bible. As Catholics, we are called to embrace the fullness of the faith: this is part of what makes us Catholic. We want to appreciate the entire Mass, so why is it so easy to arrive late to Mass?

Dave had rolled out of bed way too late. Brandon had called out to him thirty minutes before, but Dave just could not motivate himself to get up so soon after a late night. By the time they finally made their way to the car, Brandon knew that they would be late for mass because of Dave, and he was fuming. On the way to Mass, though, he began to think through his own behavior and attitudes, seeing what he could stand to improve.

Faithful Attend Catholic Mass
The faithful attend Catholic Mass | Courtesy:

Getting Ready for Mass

Suspecting that he would not be there on time for the penitential rite, Brandon recalled for himself the sins that he had committed recently. He paid particular attention to some of what had happened on this trip with Dave. His friend really had not had the same formation in the faith for most of his life and he should not expect him to give the same value to being on time for Mass. Brandon realized that should probably cut Dave some more slack. Brandon also wondered if he should have waited for Dave. If he had left him behind, he would surely be arriving at Mass on time. On the other hand, however, this gave him a great opportunity to evangelize to Dave. Certainly, God would at least be happy about that.

They finally arrived St. Patrick’s parish. Lo and behold, Mass was beginning late. They were on time for the beginning of Mass. They settled into a pew and prepared to listen to the Word of God and receive the Body of the Lord during the Eucharistic Celebration. Even Dave resolved to not be late for Mass again.

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Looking for more articles on the Eucharist? Look no further.

Mass as a Sacrifice

Mass as a Memorial

Christ at the Center

Just a Symbol?

Distracted During Mass?

Why Are There So Many Names for the Eucharist?

About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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