October 19, 2017

Simcha Fisher: Hey you! What are you doing here?

Fr Rene Tacastacas SJ celebrating the Easter Vigil in 2014, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, the Philippines. Photo: Br Jeffrey Pioquinto SJ, cc by 2.0

Easter! There you are at Mass. So … Why are you at Mass?

I’m talking to you, the reader who hasn’t set foot inside a church since Christmas, or maybe since last Easter, or maybe longer. Maybe decades longer. Maybe the last time you were here, you were so young, you couldn’t even read or see above the pew in front of you. You had only a vague understanding of what was going on around you. You went because you were made to, but the Mass had nothing to do with you.

Kind of like right now. Only you’re an adult now, and being tall enough to see the altar doesn’t help as much as it should. The Mass still seems to have very little to do with you. Little to none of the liturgy seems to apply to your life, and you feel very much out of place. The Church doesn’t have anything you need or anything you want, as far as you can tell by the murmuring crowds, the warbling cantor, the droning lector. You certainly don’t have anything in common with the rest of the congregation.

Let me tell you something. You may be surrounded on all sides by Catholics who go to Mass every Sunday of the year and then some, but you’re not as alone as you might think.

That woman on the left, with her head bowed reverently in prayer, is deliberately tuning the priest out because she’s mad at him for changing the parish picnic venue without consulting her.

The young man smiling as he shushes his squirmy kids is shushing a little voice in his head that keeps asking him why he bothers, when he is garbage, just garbage.

The old woman next to him, staring so attentively at the altar, has just come home from the Middle East, and every time she closes her eyes, she sees blood, torn limbs, rubble, and she doesn’t know what to do about it.

The young dad giving such fervent, heartfelt responses to all the psalms is doing it by a sheer act of will, in hopes that his outward enthusiasm will stir up the spiritual fervour he had when he was eight and hasn’t felt since.

The elderly gentleman thinks Pope Francis is some kind of “pinko hippie”, and there hasn’t been a real Pope in Rome since Giuseppe Siri, and he will tell you alllllll about it if he can get you cornered in the foyer.

The nun next to him is headed to a pro-choice rally after Mass, and is chilling some champagne for the day when women priests will finally be approved.

So … why are they at Mass?

Because Jesus is here, and He’s giving Himself away.

It’s the only reason. That’s what keeps people coming back, week after week, even if they don’t really want to be there, even if they’re not really sure what the point is, even if they’re not properly disposed to receive the Sacrament. They can’t stay away. Or when they do stay away, they always eventually find themselves coming back again, and again, and again. Even through their doubts, even through their discontent, even through their dread, even through their confusion, they come back for Christ, because Christ is giving Himself away.

The music may be great or it may be awful; the decor may be gorgeous or it may be repulsive; the community may be lively and welcoming and supportive, or it may be as warm as a bowl of chilled tapioca pudding. But nobody is here for those things, not really. You can find music or coloured windows or sentient adults just about anywhere, if you make the effort.

But where else can you find, real Jesus, that you can eat with your mouths and carry around in your body? Where else can you find God, huge enough to make the universe with a word, small enough to hide inside a wafer, a crumb of a wafer? Inside your soul?

Nowhere else. This Catholic Church is the church that Christ Himself founded so He could feed you with His body and blood. And everyone needs to eat.

So come again. Come and eat. Christ is here for you. He’s here to give Himself away to you.

Link added. Photo used as per cc 2.0

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