Thursday, December 22, 2011

Like I Mean It

I know a non-Catholic who has been exposed to the Catholic faith pretty heavily for years, but who still has no interest in becoming a Catholic. When asked why he answers, “Because Catholic worship is so boring. It looks like there is no feeling, they are just going through the motions.”

The typical response to this would be an explanation of the liturgy, and how worship is an action of faith and will, feelings are secondary and accidental. This would be a true response, but let’s take a look at it from another angle for a second. Truth be told, most of the times when I go to Sunday Mass, if I pay attention to the people around me it doesn’t often look as if they are especially interested in what they are doing. Hardly anyone sings, the responses are mumbled, someone is picking his fingernails over there, someone else is playing peek-a-boo with the toddler in the seat in front of her. Before and after Mass the church often sounds like a meeting hall, to the irritation of those who have the desire to pray, but lack the focus to ignore the noise. Then, when I look at myself (because, after all, what am I doing watching everyone else) I find I am doing all of those things (except playing peek-a-boo.)

Granted that I am not a charismatic, and don’t very much value emotional thrills, yet still I can’t help but think that if we stopped and thought, really thought what we were doing, it ought to make a difference in how we act at Mass. I should be worshipping like I mean it. That difference ought to be noticeable. I think of the worship of cloistered nuns or even the discipline of Buddhist monks. I doubt anyone watching Zen monks meditating (which is not even worship) would be inclined to doubt the sincerity, whatever their thoughts about the theology of it.

But then, this is really only a part of the question. If you are a person that God Himself invites to His table, if you are the person who has received Jesus in the Eucharist, that really ought to mean something for the rest of your life. And yet so many of us act as if we were just killing time at Mass, and only really come alive outside the church. Instead it should be the other way around. The protestant who comes to Mass might not recognize the depth and passion of a beautiful liturgy, and almost certainly will not recognize the Sacramental reality that takes place regardless of how beautiful or how sloppy the liturgy is. It is quite fair for them to complain about a “Lack of feeling” at Mass, but the witness of the rest of our lives should be an answer to them. Worship does not end when we leave church. The hidden interior joy we receive at Mass (sometimes whether we know it or not) should slowly bubble its way to the surface over the course of the day and the week, until it overflows in a good life, lived with excellence and fun and style. We should live every day as if Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

Because as it turns out, He did.

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