Jesus, the evening before He gave His life for us, celebrated the Passover with His best friends. He fulfilled the promise of this ancient meal by transforming it into the very meal it had always forshadowed.
The Passover in Egypt, where the blood of pure male lambs was spread on the lintel and door posts of all the Israelites homes, saved the Israelites from death. This was a foreshadowing of how the blood of the Lamb of God: Jesus, would save us from eternal death. Each year the Jews would remember how God saved them in Egypt by celebrating the Passover meal. Jesus commanded that we celebrate this new meal, the Mass, as a memorial to His death – which saved us. This memorial is not just a remembrance, but through the power of God it takes us to Calvary where Jesus died, and up to Heaven with God and His angels and saints. We are there, in both places, at the same time, through the miracle of the Mass.
Each and every Mass is about Jesus, not only celebrating how He saved us, but taking us to the place where He saved us… and to the place He as prepared for us.
Jesus left the Church the divine power and authority to celebrate the Mass (along with all the sacraments) as well as the ability to pass along the truth of God’s revelation without error. Thirdly, Jesus also left the Church the authority to govern God’s people and the sacraments. This means that the Church safeguards the sacraments and makes sure they are celebrated the way Jesus commanded and in a way that properly conveys the truth of the sacrament and the grace they dispense. The Church has exorcised this authority by giving us norms under which all the sacraments are to be celebrated.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “…no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy” (1125). So, Catholics celebrating Mass can not change it, not can the deacon or priest or bishop. Even the pope can not modify the Mass without being obedient to the truths of the Faith and with respect for the liturgy.
Going back to what the Mass is all about, no one can make the Mass about anything else over and above Who it is about – Jesus. The Mass belongs to Jesus Christ. Indeed, all the sacraments belong to Him.
However, this is very often forgotten by those who come to the Church to celebrate a wedding or funeral. The Church offers us choices for scripture readings and music, as well as other options in the liturgy. The Church wants Masses in these situations to be meaningful to those involved. The Church wants to celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage of this man and woman. The Church wants to help us remember and grieve those who have died. But this should not come at the expense of the integrity and true meaning of the Mass.
There are many ways to celebrate a wedding and honor a departed loved one, but changing the Mass is not one of them. The Mass at a wedding should be first and foremost a celebration of how Jesus, through His death and resurrection, has made marriage a sacrament and unites the couple. The Mass at a funeral should be first and foremost a celebration of how Jesus saved the departed through their baptism and wants to call them home to Heaven.
We need to humbly remember that no matter when, where or why, the Mass always belongs to Jesus. And Jesus gave His bride the Church authority over the Mass (and the Sacrament of Marriage). When we honor God by remembering this, we bless the wedding… and honor our departed loved ones all the more.