Haven’t been to church in a while? You are not alone. It continues to be a slow roll back to the pews with wise ebbs and flows in this “kinda-post-covid” time. Who knows what this will all end up looking like, but regardless of where you are praying these days, thank you for staying connected here.
I have a sneaky suspicion from listening to the talk among all my little circles of friends and family that some of us have little to no intention on returning to weekly attendance at all. Some of you may find ourselves in a dark place – not even sure if we believe in God anymore or that our spiritual life is real, or important, or worth investing time and energy into.
If this is where you are at, I get it! Seriously, does anyone even recognize the “Jesus” being paraded about in our cultural institutions these days? Jesus has officially been confiscated; His teachings twisted by corrupt politicians and wayward religious leaders for years.
As a result, even the utterance of the name “Jesus” in any public forum is often received with disdain; perceived by most as distasteful and inappropriate; sometimes even more offensive than the strongest of curse words – even among our fmost intimate friends and family. AND we Christians, aren’t helping this abscondment with all our divisions; splitting hairs on matters that hold little to no relevance for today’s believer and ignoring the things that Jesus actually cared about and took seriously. No wonder talk of church sometimes leaves us queasy. I think it’s totally plausible that all this hullabaloo and propaganda around the teachings of Jesus these days leaves Jesus himself scratching his head, wondering “Really? Is this the good news you all heard?”
I think we can all agree that Jesus, who is a hero by any measure (even for those who do not recognize his divinity), is in desperate need of a new Public Relations manager. As G.K. Chesterton is known as saying “It’s not that Christianity has failed. It’s that it’s never been tried.” (or, in a more exact quote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”)
Yet, like you (I hope) and virtually every saint in our tradition, I find there is still a deep hope that prevails in the darkness and vital nourishment to be found in our togetherness and our celebration of the sacraments. I still believe with everything I’ve got that our relationship and understanding of God (aka: our spiritual life) whether it is strong and healthy or wimpy and ill-informed affects us more than any other aspect of our life – as well as our collective life. And though death is inevitable and must happen for new life to emerge – in our institutions, creation and even within ourselves – tradition is to a community what memory is to an individual. I value being part of the 2000 years+ long continuum of faith that continues to ask the big questions and tries to figure out what God is all about and why we are here.
I believe that Eucharist is a verb not a noun; that Jesus asked us to follow him, not worship him and when we gather around the altar table to share this sacred meal as equals, to listen to one another, to welcome the stranger, nourish the hungry in body and spirit, care for those in need (even though we may not agree on much), that just by “showing up” we are doing as Jesus asked. I’m thankful to have the freedom and privilege to gather with like-minded friends to do our best to achieve our central mission as Christians; namely, changing this world-gone-wild with our efforts to embody the love and radical hospitality of Christ – to BE the incarnation we celebrate each week at Mass. Ambitious? Yes. But then again, “nothing is impossible with God.”