How to Amaze Jesus

*This article originally appeared on the IntegratedCatholicLife.org.

We know well the words that the centurion speaks to Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…” (Matt 8:8). We say them at each and every Mass. But have you ever taken time to reflect on the words following the Roman officer’s remarks to Jesus? Can you remember the words that the Gospel uses to describe Jesus’ reaction to the centurion?
Jesus is amazed (Matt 8:10).

Can you imagine what it would be like to amaze Jesus? Astonishingly, we know that the word “amazed” is used only once in Matthew’s Gospel—this is it. So amazement isn’t a regularly mentioned habit of Jesus in the Gospels. Secondly, God is, well…God. I imagine it has to be pretty difficult to amaze him. But somehow, the centurion did.

From reading this passage we learn that the thing mentioned here that amazes Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the faith of this centurion—a Gentile—an officer in the enemy army! So it is great faith (no matter who exhibits it) that amazes Jesus.

Back to the Mass. Just before our reception of Holy Communion, before we receive Jesus under our own ‘roof’, we repeat the beautiful words of the centurion here in Matthew’s Gospel. Why? I think the Roman centurion is a model for us of how to approach Jesus. He humbly petitions Him, and then has full faith and confidence that Christ will respond to His need in the way that Jesus knows is best. How many times in prayer do you approach Jesus with both a problem and a solution? But what a truly faithful, humble servant does is to present a situation to Jesus and then remain open to His will, His solution. That’s exactly what the centurion does; that kind of faith amazes Jesus.

The Transubstantiation is the supreme way that Jesus amazes us at each and every Mass. But what if the next time you’re at Mass, you think of reciting these words of the centurion and receiving the Holy Eucharist as an opportunity for you to amaze Jesus?

Every moment before Communion we stand face to face with God, as the centurion did. We, too, have an opportunity to place our petitions before Him, coming to His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity and awaiting His answer to our needs. We also have the opportunity to pray: just say the word, Jesus. To possess an unshakeable faith in Christ’s ability to be our solution to all of our needs—perhaps all of us, in this way, can amaze Him, too.

10 Mass Tips for Catholic Families

As Catholics, we know that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, and Mass is really the pinnacle experience of Catholic culture that we engage in every week as a family.

So here are some strategies for making the most of Mass as a family:

  1. Review the readings before Mass. This helps the readings “sink in” better when you hear them for the second time at Mass, and reading them ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to learn their context within the greater narrative of salvation history. Reviewing the readings before Mass is also immensely helpful if you have young children who may innocently divert family members’ attention away from the readings or Gospel during the liturgy.
  2. Sit near the front. For some, it seems counterintuitive to sit near the front of the Church, especially if you have a pew full of little ones, but being near the altar is generally immensely helpful in paying closer attention to what’s happening.
  3. If you have little ones, explain the Mass to them as it progressesFor older children and adults, learn about the Mass at home. Little children like to have the Mass narrated to them, so they can feel like they are “in the know” with what’s happening (“Now we are going to listen to stories from the Bible.” “Now you are going to go receive a blessing from the priest, while I receive Jesus in the Eucharist!”). For older children and adults, learning about the parts of the Mass and their Scriptural roots makes the celebration of the Mass even more meaningful and engaging. (Click the links for great learning resources about the Mass!)
  4. Dress for the occasion! Wearing your “Sunday best”
    signals to your family and to others how important the Mass is to you, and sets the stage for better concentration, appreciation, and behavior.
  5. Participate! Sing the hymns, pray the vocal prayers – be engaged! Show your family through your participation how you want to be at Mass, and they will more likely follow your example.
  6. State your expectations and the rewards of going to Mass. Talk to your family about how one should behave at Mass (for example: quiet voices, do not disturb others, stay in the pew…), and why you go to Mass as a family (Here are some great reasons.)
  7. Minimize distractions. This probably looks different for every family, but know what distracts you and your kids and then avoid those things! Some common distractors to all families include chewing gum, food, certain toys, or even bulletins (which are not intended to be read during Mass). My toddler has never needed toys during church (because he’s never had them offered to him), and is usually content with either nothing, or one religious book or a children’s rosary.
  8. Go to daily Mass when you can. When people ask me why my toddler behaves so well (most of the time!) during Mass on Sunday, I respond, “We go to daily Mass; he gets a lot of practice!” Making the Mass a more regular part of your family’s routine is always, always a good thing.
  9. Consider putting something in the collection basket, rather than tithing solely online, if you have kids in the pew. Have them participate by adding in a dollar (or a few) themselves. Watching you tithe is an important behavior to model for them.
  10. Take turns discussing one thing you each learned from Mass that day. You can do this on the ride home or at a meal time that day, but for all who are old enough, share your one “take-away” from either the readings, homily or other prayer time during Mass and discuss how you might use that tidbit of insight or inspiration as you go through the following week.

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” -St. Padre Pio

Is Jesus saying to you, “Look at Me”?

I sat there in the quiet chapel, feeling exceptionally grateful for my seven-month-old son’s spontaneous nap, which gave me the chance to savor a few minutes with Jesus in adoration. Still, prayerful moments like these before the Lord in the Eucharist seemed so fleeting lately that I was almost too giddy to buckle down and pray. I nestled into the folding chair at the back of the chapel, resting against its minimal padding to help support the weight of the sleeping baby in my arms. I closed my eyes and started to pray.

I wasn’t keeping track of how many minutes had gone by when I heard a clear, soft voice speaking in my heart: “Look at me.”

Instantly, I became acutely aware of the fact that in all the time I had been sitting with Jesus in the chapel, I hadn’t once stopped to gaze at Him in the Monstrance before me on the altar. I looked up. My soul flooded with an inexpressible feeling—like a perfect combination of love, peace, recognition, understanding, and hope—something like that. All it took was a look, “that look” which is described so beautifully in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

…”I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men… (2715).

After that moment, I couldn’t help but think of how easy it is to forget to look at Jesus. Sometimes we get so busy, whether with our work or the care of our family or even our prayer (all good things!), that we forget to take time to just fix our gaze on Jesus, even if for a moment.

Imagine passing a family member in the hallway of your home and failing to give them even a passing glance. Wouldn’t that be strange? But isn’t that what we do to the images of Jesus in our home? We get used to that picture of Jesus hanging in that special spot on the wall or the crucifix suspended in that particular corner of the room, and we frequently pass it by without a look. When we look at something or someone, it causes us to think about that thing or person. Of course, Jesus is not present in those holy objects like He is in the Monstrance or the Tabernacle, but aren’t those items in our homes to remind us of Him, to remind us to look at Him, to think of Him?

I think Jesus longs for us to take brief (and not-so-brief, more contemplative) moments of our day to stop and gaze on Him, whether that be in His True Presence in the Eucharist, or in pictures and statues and crosses in our homes, or in an image we hold of Him when we close our eyes. And I don’t think He longs for this for purely His own loving sake. When “I look at Him and He looks at me,” I am changed, instantly. “His gaze purifies [my] heart” and I am reminded, for one special, lasting moment, that I am deeply, indescribably loved.

Originally posted at IntegratedCatholicLife.org.