"Who was the first man who received the holy communion and then left the gathering?", our parish priest blurted out right before the choir sang the song they prepared for Offering that Sunday evening.
Everybody was caught by surprise. I was. For a second or two I thought he is pin pointing somebody in the crowd and I was kind of expecting someone to raise his shaky hand. After a momentary confusion it became apparent that he is trying to make point.
That question swirled my mind the for the next 20 minutes or so.
Before the communion rites he said, "The first man who received the holy communion and left the gathering was JUDAS."
As a background, our priest has always been very vocal on how he hates a plethora of people would leave the church right after receiving the holy communion. That is of course is wrong, very very wrong.
I studied in a catholic school ran by the sisters of saint Paul along R. Hidalgo street in Quiapo right in the heart of Manila. We have a nun for our Religion class or Social Ethics as we call it back then. For some reason, I love the subject it is one of my favourites. On why, that is an entirely different story which I hope I could write about someday.
Anyway, from that class I have learnt how to properly hear a mass and I have shared it with my kids a few times. It's a shame that most Catholics doesn't know about it probably because nobody ever told them how. So now, I'm gonna enumerate and share what I have learned.
Here goes. You didn't hear mass if you:
- Failed to arrive before the first words of the Holy Gospel has been pronounced.
- Didn't participate in the singing.
- Didn't participate in the prayers, obviously.
- Didn't offer anything except if you are really really tight on budget.
- Failed to receive the FINAL BLESSING.
The last one is what our priest is trying to convey. Your whole 1 hour or so of going to church, participating in the responsorial psalm, singing even though you sounded like a cat and your tail has just been stepped on, prayed so hard that sweat comes out of your forehead in an air-conditioned church and even pulled out a fat fifty dollar bill for your offering. All that will go to waste if you failed to hear the Final Blessing.
The mass isn't over when you receive the holy host dear brothers and sisters. You have to be there when the final blessing is given out.
And by the way, Masses are not like TV Shows or Movies, if you arrive late and failed to hear the Holy Gospel, you need to hear the entirety of the next scheduled mass.
I hope this could reach out to a number of Catholics out there. So that the next time you hear a similar question like what our priest asked us, you won't feel like a silver-hungry-traitor like the infamous Mr. Iscariot.
Be blessed everyone! :o)