the measure

Feb 27, 2023

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In recent years I have been invited to lead sessions for the parents of children preparing for First Communion. I love working with these parents. Many have had little contact with Sunday worship for a decade or two or more. Yet their growing faith leads them to ask for a Sacrament of the Church. While our (church) response is always well-intentioned it’s usually pretty unhelpful when it focusses on Mass attendance and parish activity as the ultimate and immediate measure of faith.

Towards the end of one of these sessions a parent raised their hand and commented that in the ninety-minute session I had not told them that they had to go to Mass. They were right. I hadn’t mentioned the Sunday Obligation.

In response I commented that if I had told them they had to go to Mass it would have made no difference to whether or not they changed their current practice. Then for the following few minutes I shared with the group my own love for the Mass explaining in some detail (with a couple of pretty powerful examples) why I personally could not live without regular participation in the Mass.

The heart of our faith is a personal experience of and relationship with Jesus Christ who is God-with-us. At some stages of faith-maturity we are content with fast-food eaten alone, gulping vitamins to keep us healthy enough,  a quick prayer when in need, a fleeting thought of God when we feel joy or guilt.  As we mature we acquire a taste for quality slow fresh food with company, real conversation and honest challenge which is a delight and soon becomes a regular need. There’s an analogy in there.  I’ll let you unpack it.

At the end of each parents’ session I share my email and cell number inviting anyone who wants to talk further to contact me and some wonderful conversations have followed in the weeks and months after the sessions.

When we use participation in Mass as the only measure of Christian faith we overlook today’s gospel”

“Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty…”  Matthew 25

As I get to know some of the First Communion parents I discover their goodness. I see their generosity and their sacrifice for their families, for those they love, and even towards strangers in need. But it’s an often-overlooked point that the real and present experience of salvation is not found simply in doing good (an admirable human quality), but in understanding that the poor and the needy are the the sisters and brothers of Jesus, and that I am a part of this same family only to the extent that I accept my own need and poverty.

“I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”

This is the measure of Christian faith.

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Today’s Gospel says it all and I was reading a commentary which reiterates what you were saying Father!!! Here it is. It is worth reading Matthew 25: 31.46 again!!

    This is the last of Matthew’s great parables
    Two striking points are stressed in the parable. Firstly, we will be judged uniquely on our treatment of those in any kind of need. Not on our prayer-life. Not on our asceticism or penances undertaken. Only on our respect for others, how far we look to see what they need and what we can give. Each of the ten commandments in the Old Testament, each of the eight beatitudes in the New can be resolved into this: telling the truth, financial honesty, honouring father and mother (or children), hunger for justice, peace-making. The second striking point is the reason for the first: that Christ is in each person. What we do to others, we do to Christ.

    We still need the Sustenance of the Sacraments and the participation of Holy Mass!!!!

    Reply
  2. Today’s Gospel says it all and I was reading a commentary which reiterates what you were saying Father!!! Here it is. It is worth reading Matthew 25: 31.46 again!!

    This is the last of Matthew’s great parables
    Two striking points are stressed in the parable. Firstly, we will be judged uniquely on our treatment of those in any kind of need. Not on our prayer-life. Not on our asceticism or penances undertaken. Only on our respect for others, how far we look to see what they need and what we can give. Each of the ten commandments in the Old Testament, each of the eight beatitudes in the New can be resolved into this: telling the truth, financial honesty, honouring father and mother (or children), hunger for justice, peace-making. The second striking point is the reason for the first: that Christ is in each person. What we do to others, we do to Christ.

    We still need the Sustenance of the Sacraments and the participation of Holy Mass!!!!

    Reply
  3. I believe a key question for most of us is – What is your image of God? and the one I have asked my adult children – Did you know you can have a relationship with God?
    Liked your reflection a lot. Thank you

    Reply
    • Thanks Lois for the questions.

      Reply
  4. very true but who made attendance at Mass the bench mark of faith and still do . When do we see parish communities set up to serve the poor and those in need front and centre not as optional extra. Surely the measure of any faith community is see how the love one another and that should extend to hospitality the bread and butter type for all.

    Reply
  5. A wonderful reflection John – thank you.

    Reply
  6. Well said John.
    Peter

    Reply
  7. A wonderful reflection John. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. I liked “The Banshees of Innishkillen” film for revealing how my human weaknesses and poverty must be accepted before I could help..

    Reply

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