Sunday: Mass, brunch, beach?
As I write this I am aware that the Vigil Mass at OLV was celebrated an hour ago. Tomorrow morning people will gather to pray before the Blessed Sacrament at 9, then at 10 parishioners will fill the church for the Sunday morning Mass. Again at 4 people will gather for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and at 5 the evening Mass will be celebrated. On the Chatham Islands parishioners will gather for prayer at St Therese of Lisieux Church Waitangi at 10.30, and also on Pitt Island people will gather for Service of the Word with Holy Communion.
Christians have been gathering to celebrate the day of the resurrection for two thousand years. Why? What is the point of doing this? Could we not connect with God in other ways? Are those who choose to walk on the beach or to go out for brunch with family or friends instead of taking part in Mass really at a disadvantage?
Yes. They are at a disadvantage. It is not particularly politically correct to say this, but people who are not at Mass are taking the difficult road. They are missing an opportunity to be filled with God’s strength and grace. When they most need it people who are avoiding Mass are missing out on the great gift of seeing life through God’s eyes.
We know this. This is why we are saddened when our friends and family no longer see Mass as a central part of every Sunday. Of course we make all kinds of allowances: the world has changed, people are busy. But in the end the Mass is not only important. The Mass is essential.
To be honest the Church may not have helped people to appreciate this too much in the past forty (or so years). But the reality has stayed the same: people cannot live without an acknowledged and expressed dependence on God, within the Church.
When people do come to Mass on Sunday they will be disappointed if they are only expecting a good connection with other like-minded people. More often than not people who come to Mass find a group of people whom they may not have chosen as friends. They will see some people they recognise from other places and who they may not like. But we do not come to Mass to meet friends.
Christians gather for the Mass today, and have for two thousand years, to meet God. We come to Mass because we have not found anything on earth that satisfies all of our human expectations and desires. Nothing and noone around us seems capable of meeting our needs. This is a wonderful moment of human awareness. You see, we are created by God and for God. There are many wonderful things in life. There are many great people. But none of these, nor any combination, is enough for me.
And so we come to Mass.
I may not understand too much of what is going on. While in Italy I have been at Mass celebrated only in Italian and Latin, the homilies and some of the prayers are completely lost on me. But something greater than language and my comprehension is operating here. I am showing God just how small and weak and vulnerable and sinful I am. Those parishioners around me are doing the same simply by their presence and their participation. And God is coming to me in my weakness. In communion we receive God together, and the week ahead seems possible.
And after this ultimate event of divine action in my life I will probably celebrate by going out for brunch, and then a walk on the beach.