In the early 90s I remember being in our Pauline Books and Media Center in San Diego one day. A woman came in for a First Communion gift for a niece. It was just before Easter. She dropped the comment that she hadn't been in a church for ages, asserting that if she went the building would probably "fall down." Most of us have probably heard these words before, perhaps from someone in our own family. When it is from our own family it hurts a lot. Why is that so?
"Going to church" is something we do because we need the One we worship and love in the Eucharist. We go because the promise of Presence and Belonging is palpable there...the presence of others, the presence of God in his Word, the presence of the body of Christ, the present of the Risen One. We go because it is there that we are shaped and formed and loved into our true identity as persons and as Christians. When we hear that someone is trying to "go it alone," to warm themselves far from the fire, to climb the mountain of life, so to speak, without coat or gear or support team, we feel frustrated. "The water is right there!" we want to say. "Why don't you drink! It is yours for the asking! It is FREE!" And yet there seems to be a wall of resistance.
At Easter time we think of these things more often. The readings of the Liturgy remind of these realities over and over again. The baptisms at the Easter Vigil remind us, the exuberance of the hymns remind us, the joy of the people in the parish remind us.
Jesus was not afraid of walls in people. Neither is Sr. Mary Lea Hill (@crabbymystic).. Her new book Prayer and You is a gentle conversation partner for anyone not sure about where they stand with regard to God or the Church or where to start connecting again. For the "not so churchy" person who may or may not be going to Mass on Sundays it is a great introduction to spirituality. As we approach Easter and wonder if certain family members will accompany us to church on Easter morning, let us pray that we might be radiant signs of Jesus still alive, always present, forever loving us in his mercy.
Sr. Kathryn James, fsp
Excerpt from Prayer and You by Sr. Mary Lea Hill, FSP @crabbymystic
Some folks seem unable to express feelings in words. Others make their feelings known through symbols. They hire a blimp to float by with the declaration of undying love that they couldn’t speak. Over the years countless apples have appeared on the desks of teachers. At ballgames we join the stadium wave since players can’t hear our encouragement from up in the ten-thousandth row. These are all symbolic gestures. Sometimes we assemble as a crowd to show support for a cause. We offer shy smiles of gratitude to strangers or place a flag on our lapel in silent tribute to a local hero. These are all visual signs of what we hold deep in our hearts. They could be spoken aloud, but the outward sign is enough. While symbols are legitimate forms of communication—evidenced by our electronic world—they aren’t always enough. It’s wonderful to open a message and find a string of Xs and Os, but when the giver is present we want real hugs and kisses. It’s the same with God. How dear all of our efforts are to him, but he must love to hear our voice and see our face and feel our participation in the prayer and worship of the Church, the family of believers. Sometimes we’re reluctant to come to church; our sudden appearance may cause some structural damage. “The roof will fall in,” we say. Maybe we’re exaggerating or a bit embarrassed for staying away. Necessities and emergencies may arise: God understands this. However, he’s holding out hope that this week we’ll all come.
Sing a new song to the Lord, sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful believers. (Ps 149:1)
If you’re a person who feels you express prayer better among the beauties of nature and the quiet of your own heart, allow me to challenge you. What you speak in the inner room of your heart is really essential, but God also deserves celebration. It is hard to hold a one-man party. Celebration cries out for participation. And while it’s true we can pray anywhere, we can only receive the Eucharist at Mass. The Eucharistic Celebration is a family affair where we celebrate the redeeming love of God. And the Church community is a good place to express this because, although we’re one voice among many, God can pick us out among all the others.
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