Friday 29 March 2024

Come to the Altar: Worshipping God with Your Whole Heart - Fr. Mike Schmitz - Homilies Collection

Come to the Altar: 
Worshipping God with Your Whole Heart
Sunday Homilies with Fr Mike Schmitz Collection
ISBN 9781954882225
eISBN 9781954882232

This is the third of 6 volumes currently available in the ‘Sunday Homilies with Fr Mike Schmitz Collection’, that I have read, and it is amazing! Over the last several years I have read and listened to a lot of Father Mike Schmitz’s offerings. This is one of 6 volumes of Homilies that have been released by ascension press. The first four volumes seem to have had eBook releases in 2022 in a series called ‘The Curious Catholic’. They were then rebranded and rereleased in the fall of 2023 as ‘The Sunday Homilies with Fr Mike Schmitz Collection’. I believe there were four in the original collection and there are now 6 in the new editions released late in 2023 and early 2024, with this being the sixth volume. It is hard tracking down all the works published by Father Mike as they are published under a few variations of his name:

Mike Schmitz
Fr Mike Schmitz
Father Mike Schmitz
and even
Michael Schmitz

But back to this volume. The description of this book states:

“"The heart of our Faith is worship"

Throughout the history of the Church, God has continually invited his people back to the altar to worship.

But what does this actually mean?

Come to the Worshiping God with Your Whole Heart teaches Catholics how to fully worship the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass instead of going through the motions.

This new addition to The Sunday Homilies with Fr. Mike Schmitz Collection takes Fr. Mike’s homily series “Come to the Altar” and transforms it into an easy-to-read and easy-to-digest booklet.

In five short chapters, this booklet shows readers how

Get more out of the Mass as they learn to worship at the altar Offer themselves fully to God in the Mass Embrace the authority given to them at Baptism as “kingdom priests” Let the Holy Spirit lead them in worship And more!

Complete with thought-provoking questions, prayerful meditations, and real-life challenges after each chapter, this booklet is perfect for individual devotion or group study.”

The chapters in this volume are:

Welcome to The Sunday Homilies with Fr. Mike Schmitz Collection
Chapter 1: Where Is Your Altar?
Chapter 2: Learning to Worship
Chapter 3: Kingdom Priesthood
Chapter 4: Hallowed, Not Hollow
Chapter 5: Come, Holy Spirit

We are informed that this booklet and I assume the others in the series as well are adapted from a series of Homilies given by Fr. Mike Schmitz. It would be nice is there was a list of the homilies so we could go back and listen to them either in the podcast, youtube, or now even the Ascension App. The welcome message in the booklet states:

“Each booklet in this series has been created to invite Catholics to grow closer to God through reflections from Fr. Mike.

These booklets are short and relatable, with features that will help you apply what you read to your own life.

Quotes and Bible verses throughout the booklets will help you zero in on the key points.

Questions after each section prompt you to reflect and help you to dive deeper into the topic being presented. We recommend that you pray or journal with these questions as you make connections to your everyday life. (They also make great prompts for small group discussion, while keeping in mind that not everyone in your group may feel comfortable answering those of a more personal nature.)
Meditations are provided after each reflection to help you take the topic directly into prayer. We recommend setting aside some time after each chapter to read the meditation and pray or journal with it.

Each reflection ends with a challenge to put what you have learned into action. These challenges invite you to enter into prayer, serve others, make a resolution for the week, and more.

It is our sincere hope The Sunday Homilies with Fr. Mike Schmitz Collection helps you along the way in your journey toward holiness. May God bless you!”

A sample Reflect, Pray and Act section from the end of the second chapter is:

What is the most meaningful gift you have received? What made it so valuable to you?

Have you felt “empty” or “hollow” at Mass? Discuss your experience.

When has God been calling you to offer your firstfruits to him? What is an area of your life in which you could be more consistent in giving them to the Lord?

Discuss ways you can make your offering of firstfruits to God more intentional, consequential, and representational.

Seek to make your prayer today an altar of sacrifice to the Lord. Regardless of what your surroundings are at this moment, you can make it a time of holy worship. Hallowed, not hollow.

Begin by being intentional. You do not need to feel anything specific. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where in your spiritual life you have been unintentional and unfocused—and to help you to intentionally place yourself in an attitude of prayer.

Then, ask the Lord to show you one thing in your life that you can offer him as worship. Remember that worship requires sacrifice, so pray about what you can offer to God that will come at a cost to you. Allow God to make your worship consequential.

Lastly, think about what you can offer to the Lord that would represent your heart, which is what you are truly offering him. For instance, you might turn your usual morning coffee time into dedicated prayer time. Through this, you can say, “Father, you know how much I love my morning quiet time. My heart is there. So I am giving this time to you because I love you.” In this way, your act of sacrificial worship becomes a tangible representation of your heart for the Lord.

Reflect on how you can bring your firstfruits—as well as your heart and the people on your heart—to God in Mass this week.”

Each of the chapters has a section like that at the end. Some longer some shorter. While reading this volume I highlighted a number of passages. Some of them are:

“The biggest thing God made us for is at the heart of our identity. It’s actually the heart of his identity. The biggest thing God made us to do is to love. We can experience love, and that is a gift, but to choose to love is at the core of who we are. The primary thing we’re called to do is to love.”

“The first way is something St. John talks about (see 1 John 4: 20–21). He says we can know we love God if we care for the people around us, including those who need our love, attention, or help. We love God by loving our brother or sister.”

“The second way we love God is by obeying him. As Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15). We can’t claim to love God and not obey his commandments. We love God through obedience to his commandments, and so if I am ever questioning if I really love God enough, I have to look at how I am acting, not how I am feeling. I need to look at whether I am choosing to obey him.”

“And the third way I can love God is an extension of obeying him. We love God when we worship him as he has asked us to worship him, and this is key. We love the Lord our God with everything we have and everything we are through obedience and worship.”

“If we as Catholics don’t know how to worship, we don’t know what we have been made for. We don’t know how to love God as he has called us to love him.”

“If we’re going to understand how to worship—if we’re going to come to the altar—we need to know what the heart of worship is. The heart of worship is not singing a song. It is not saying a prayer. No, the heart of worship is sacrifice.”

“The altar is the place of sacrifice, where we offer the gift to God. The altar is the place where we worship.”

“At Mass, we hear the Word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures and hear it explained in the homily, then offer the sacrifice. We eat and drink in the presence of God. We are set free from all “rivals” so we can worship God in true and eternal worship. We get to come to the altar.”

“As we have seen, the heart of religion is worship—and the heart of worship is sacrifice. The place of sacrifice is an altar. It doesn’t matter how we feel in our worship. It matters where our altar is. Do we offer sacrifice to the Lord, or do we have an altar in our hearts to ourselves?”

“This is the only time in the Gospels when people stopped following Jesus due to one of his teachings. And it was over his teaching that he is truly present in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not just a symbol of Jesus. It actually is Jesus.”

“For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, all Christians—both Catholics and Orthodox—understood Jesus’ words in John 6 literally. That’s right. One hundred percent of Christians believed that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.”

“At the Temple, the sacrifice of the lamb was completed when the blood was poured out on the altar. At the Last Supper, Jesus is saying, “This is my blood poured out.” And then he commands his disciples, “Do this in memory of me.” In these powerful words, Jesus makes it absolutely clear how he wants us to worship him. Offer up the sacrifice. Offer up me, once for all, blood poured out, body given over.”

“As we are praying after receiving Holy Communion, we should reflect on the amazing reality that we have consumed the very love of God in the Eucharist. During Mass, we behold the love of God for us—and then receive this love in the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of his Son.”

“But the point of the Mass is not to receive Holy Communion. The point of Mass is to offer the sacrifice of the Son of God to the Father. The point of the Mass is to offer to the Father the sacrifice of the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Calvary, which are brought into one at every Mass.”

“The whole point is to love God. Sacrifice is the heart of loving God, and so the point of our lives is to worship God in the Mass by offering the greatest sacrifice any of us could ever possibly hope or even imagine we can be part of.”

“At our baptism, the priest (or deacon) anointed us with oil to give us a share in Christ’s ministry as priest, prophet, and king. So if we have been baptized, we have been consecrated and anointed, set apart to be priests of the kingdom.”

“My prayer is that no Catholics will ever show up to Mass and just watch but instead they will come and worship. My prayer is that they will never just show up to Mass and waste their kingdom priesthood but they will intentionally offer the sacrifice of the Son to the Father with the ministerial priest. My prayer is that, from now on, all will be the sacrifice along with Jesus—each time they come to the altar.”

“I think a lot of times we show up to Mass and leave unchanged. The Mass is supposed to make all the difference in the world, but it does not make a difference in our lives.”

“When what we are giving God is intentional, it is not an afterthought. It is not giving him whatever we have on hand. It is not pulling a random bill out of our pocket for the collection basket; it is having the check in the envelope before we go to Mass. It is planned ahead.”

“Giving our firstfruits also must be consequential—it needs to cost us something. It needs to be something that matters to us. In the ancient world, those who offered their firstborn male calf to the Lord truly were making a sacrifice. They were offering him their very livelihood. It cost them.”

“Firstfruits must also be representational. Sometimes, we offer God a time of prayer or work so we do not have to give him our hearts. It does not, then, represent any real sacrifice. In contrast, we can think of the example of the poor widow who gave the Lord all that she had, two copper coins, her entire livelihood (see Mark 12: 41–44). They represented her desire for a relationship with the Lord.”

“St. John Paul II pointed out that the opposite of love is not hatred; the opposite of love is use or indifference. A lot of us would be quick to say that we don’t hate anyone. But I think many of us are indifferent to others. Do we really believe that people are worth trying to save? What about the people who are closest to us?”

“As you begin your prayer time, let yourself be silent and allow the Holy Spirit to remind you of all the powerful things he has done in you. Think of all the times he has delivered you from fear. Think of the times he has comforted you in specific needs. Think of the times he has provided for you in your material needs. Allow him to do a play-by-play montage of his goodness in your life.”

I hope those few quotes give you a feel for this volume. This book really hit home for me. It is a volume I hope all three of my teenagers will read. And it is a book I wish was around when I was a teen or young adult, I would have greatly benefited from reading it. 

This is another very powerful little volume. It is one I will likely return to again and read again and again. When I was in university, I was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, there was a series of booklets by the founder Bill Bright, called Transferable Concepts, and by reading them many times you could almost memorize them and the message so that you could share it. This volume reminds me a lot of those books, but specifically geared for Catholics. But to be honest any Christian would benefit from reading this book.

This is another excellent resource from Fr Mike, I have used his Bible in a Year Companions, and am currently using the Catechism in a Year Companion and read some of his other offerings. What I love about this book and this new collection is you can pick and choose. Read a booklet from beginning to end or jump around and read the different topics as you are inspired, or as they seem relevant. Because they are based on Father Mike’s actual homilies the text flows well, is engaging and keeps your attention. They would be great to work through as a group study or for personal reading, reflection, or spiritual reading. 

I can easily recommend this volume and look forward to reading others in the set. Another great resource from Father Mike and Ascension. An excellent resource for any Catholic or even any Christian!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2024 Catholic Reading Plan

Books By Father Mike Schmitz:
Made for Love: Same-Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church
Quick Catholic Lessons with Fr. Mike

Contributed to:
Pray, Decide, and Don't Worry: Five Steps to Discerning God's Will
Don't Be Afraid to Say Yes to God! Pope Francis Speaks to Young People

Audio Talks by Father Mike Schmitz:
Living Life by Design, Not by Default
Love - Sacrifice - Trust He Showed Us the Way
From Love, By Love, For Love
True Worship
The Four Last Things
Jesus Is …
Changed Forever - The Sacrament of Baptism
We Must Go Out - The Sacrament of Confirmation

Are You Saved - Fr Mike Schmitz Homilies Collection

Ordinary Time - Fr Mike Schmitz Homilies Collection

Untroubled by the Unknown - Fr Mike Schmitz Homilies Collection

It's Personal - Fr Mike Schmitz Homilies Collection

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