Imagine that you are 12 years old. Also imagine that one night when you were almost asleep you realized there was someone in your room. When you opened your eyes you saw an angel. You knew it was an angel because it looked like the ones you had seen in books. It had wings, a beautiful face, a white robe and a soft light coming from its face and hands. Before you could scream for your parents, the angel said, “Don’t be afraid because God loves you and wants to give you something special.”
Place yourself in this story; imagine it happened to you that night and over the next year.
The angel spoke with a beautiful voice and explained that God was going to let me go back in time to the most important event in the history of the world. The angel was asking me to go with him (or her) to the crucifixion of Jesus. The angel said it would take about three hours and that my parents would not look for me or become concerned. Also the angel promised to stay with me the whole time and said no one at the hill outside Jerusalem would even notice me.
This was scary, and I did not know what to say. The angel waited patiently and finally I said, “OK”. I think the loving way the angel talked to me and the overwhelming beauty and majesty of the angel helped me to say yes.
In an instant I was standing under a tree watching men working on something on the ground and then I realized it was Jesus and the cross on the ground. Even though I was not especially close to the men I could hear the hammer hitting the large nails. The thought of the nails going through Jesus’ feet and hands sent shivers through me, and my angel put a hand on my shoulder. Without a word we watched the wooden cross drop into the hole that had been dug and saw people walking around and sometimes shouting at Jesus and the other two men on crosses.
I could see that as time went on Jesus became weaker and it was harder for him to get a breath. He had to push himself up with his legs to take a breath and then he would slump down. I saw Jesus look down at a man and a woman who were standing quietly at the foot of the cross. With a shock I realized that it must be Mary, his mother, and John, his best friend.
It was very hard to stand there and watch Jesus suffer, and when a soldier pushed a spear into his chest the earth shook, and the sky got dark, I started to cry. In the next instant I was home in bed and the angel was standing beside me. The angel said that Jesus and his Father had liked my presence at the crucifixion and that I would receive many graces as a result. The angel explained that the obedience of Jesus to his Father earned forgiveness for all sins and demonstrated the unbelievable love of God for all men, women and children. I already knew God loved me but now I really knew his love was greater than anything I could imagine.
The next day I woke feeling I had slept well but also deeply changed by my experience. I saw the world differently. I remembered happily the angel saying that God wanted me to travel back and witness the crucifixion again in three months and that I said I would.
Things happened the same way three months later. I was glad that the same angel came for me. He said I could call him Michael. When we arrived, so to speak, at the crucifixion we were much closer and I was worried someone would notice us and cause trouble. However, no one paid any attention to us as the soldiers were busy hammering, shouting to each other and trying to control the crowd. The people in the crowd were calling and shouting at Jesus and pushing to get closer.
I was close enough that I could see Jesus’s blood in his hair from the thorns and blood all over his sides and chest from the whips. His knees were very bloody, I guess from falling with the heavy cross. I could tell the cross was heavy by how many Roman soldiers it took to set it in the ground. As Jesus hung on the cross I noticed the nails in his hands and feet were huge. I heard the crowd arguing about who he was and whether to try to give him some wine. How could I understand what was being said? God was making it all available to me. For the first time on either trip I prayed that Jesus would soon be in heaven with his Father and I prayed for myself that I might be a good person so Jesus would not suffer all this and let me experience it for nothing. I made up my mind always to try to do what Jesus wanted me to do.
I heard Jesus ask his Father to forgive the people who did not know what they were doing and I heard him tell Mary that John was her son and John that Mary was his mother. Michael explained to me when I was back in bed that Jesus was really telling the world that Mary was the mother not only of John but also of all Christians, including me, forever.
My angel, Michael, told me I could go back in only a month. I was happy because I felt like a stronger better person after each trip. Michael suggested I offer things in my life to the Father with the offering Christ was making and that the Father would accept them as special since they would arrive in heaven united to the offering Jesus made of himself on the cross. I thought that was a great idea and worked hard to think of things to offer next time.
On the next trip we were standing so close to the cross that I could have taken two steps and touched it. The suffering was so real it was hard to look, but I could not avoid hearing the difficult breathing of Jesus and the crowd making fun of the Savior of the world. I could smell dust, blood and sweat. I offered God my hurt elbow, my fear of a big kid who picked on me, and the sadness I felt when I lost my new jacket. At Michael’s suggestion I asked God to bless my mother and father and sister. I asked him to bless an uncle who is very sick with cancer and asked him to take care of my grandparents who were on vacation in France. I thanked God for my wonderful parents and little sister. Michael had explained that my joining actively in the perfect offering made by Jesus would result in many, many graces and that God our Father would listen to all my requests to help others and myself.
Boy did I feel good when I was back in bed. I felt like I had really done something by participating in the perfect sacrifice to God the Father and that I had done good things for my family and friends by asking God’s blessings on them as part of the sacrifice.
When Michael retuned the next time he told me that Jesus wanted me even closer to him from now on. Closer than two steps would put me under the cross with blood and sweat falling on my head. Michael explained that God, through the Holy Spirit acting through St. Peter and Christ’s apostles, had established an unbroken line of priests who at Mass cause the sacrifice Christ offered on the cross to remain ever present at Masses all over the world every day. I had sort of heard that before, but it surely must be better to really be at Calvary. Michael agreed that the sights and sounds of Christ’s suffering and death were powerful, but he assured me that my offering the pain of my hurting elbow or praying for my parents at Mass was exactly the same as doing it underneath the cross at Calvary. It was received in heaven with the continuing perfect offering of Christ. The graces were exactly as if one were really present when Christ was crucified. Wow, that was a lot to think about.
After a minute I asked my angel about Jesus wanting me even closer. Michael just looked at me without saying a word. My head was spinning. I knew there was something I should know and couldn’t think of. Then it hit me. In Holy Communion Jesus Christ comes right into my body and my soul, and Jesus and I are closer than two human beings can ever be. We are united.
My brain was trying to understand all this so I would not lose the thrill of knowing God’s wonderful plan for His people on earth and my participation in it. Michael seemed to know what I was thinking. He allowed me several minutes to gather my thoughts.
Michael told me to keep the visits to Calvary to myself, as most people would not believe it if I told them. He said that now that I understood God’s gift to humanity, God would expect me to live a very good life and use all the Sacraments and the Mass to stay close to him. Michael said he would pray for me every day and looked forward to our being together in heaven. Suddenly I was alone in my room, but I knew that I would never be really alone again. I could be part of the continuous offering of Catholics around the world who continue with Christ, through His priests, the perfect offering to the Father. Also, through Communion, Jesus and I are together in the closest possible way. And besides all that, Mary is my second mother. What a marvelous plan of salvation God put in place for his people.
Each Mass gives all participants the opportunity to offer their work, their joys, and their sufferings to the Father with the offering of Jesus on Calvary. Each participant who does this receives tremendous amounts of grace personally. Also, the Mass is the perfect opportunity to request grace for parents, for friends, for help with studies, for peace among nations, for anything. The participant has approached our Father in Heaven in the most effective way possible. As we say at Mass about our unity with Christ, “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen.”
If that is not enough, through the reception of communion Christ comes to us in a special way to nourish and strengthen our union with him. Communion unites us to the mystical body of Christ of which he is the head and all in heaven and all good people on earth are members. If anyone says the Mass is boring, that person doesn’t understand -- yet. In the Mass we are present and able to participate in the events that opened the gates of heaven and made our salvation possible. Pray that they will be blessed with faith to understand and appreciate what God has done and how the most important and powerful grace giving event in the history of the world continues on our altars every day.