The British spiritual writer, Timothy Radcliffe, tells the story of “a mother, who on a Sunday morning, shook her son awake, telling him it was time to go to church. No effect. Ten minutes later she was back: ‘Get out of bed immediately and go to church.’ ‘Mother, I don’t want to. It’s so boring! Why should I bother?’ For two reasons: You know you must go to church on a Sunday, and secondly, you are the bishop of the diocese.” That’s a good one to tell around, isn’t it!
Skipping Sunday Mass is the current approach of many older adults as well as millennials. Many declare they “don’t get anything out of it” or “they are mad at the church because of the sex abuse scandal.” As some tell it, they have not left the church. They have simply distanced themselves from its hold on their daily lives. They are content to be “believers without belonging,” as Grace Davie put it in a publication that came out in 2000. They are part of a virtual community.
It not a matter of “going to church” that they are talking about. These same people would go to funerals, weddings, baptism and other ritual events, when family relationships, friends or special occasions call for it. More to the point, it’s not going to Sunday Mass.
Most of the time, Sunday Mass doesn’t rise to the level of an emotional experience, or some sort of huge event which captures us for the moment, but then it’s over. Mass is when and where we receive the gift – the gift – of Christ’s body. We can’t receive what we are not present for. We receive it and grow in subtle, barely perceptible ways. Over a lifetime, we become what we receive.
Many of us were taught the framework of the Eucharist when we were children, and we’ve left it there. Perhaps we’ve done no reading or study to deepen our understanding of this holy gathering when the community comes together to listen to the Word of God, be inspired, experience again the Last Supper and receive the God who had come to generation after generation of believers. He is the vine upon which we are grafted, he is the faithful one who remained faithful even when Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him. He said Yes to us long before we said Yes to Him.
Perhaps, we’ve never taken away from Mass a phrase from a reading or a line from a hymn to savor all week long. Here’s an example. Last weekend, at the 4.30 Mass at St. James Church (Peace of Christ Parish), these phrases from the opening hymn turned our attention to what was happening:
God is here! as we his people meet to offer praise and prayer. May we find in fuller measure what it is in Christ we share.
Here are symbols to remind us of our lifelong need for grace. Here are table, font and pulpit. Here the cross has central place. Here in silence and in speech, God the Spirit comes to each.
We seek in worship to explore what it means in daily living to believe and to adore.
This Sunday, every Sunday at Mass, let God touch the core of our humanity even if we have a hard time being there.
~Sister Joan Sobala