Well my “return to church” resolution is off to a wonderful start, one Sunday down only 51 to go! For awhile yesterday I thought I wasn’t going to make it all. I normally go to 8 AM mass so I had the alarm set for 7:20 but when it went off I hit the snooze alarm twice and fell back to sleep. At 7:40 when it went off again I made a snap decision to go to a later mass, turned off the alarm and slipped off to dreamland yet again.
I awoke around 9 AM and was out of the house by 9:45 AM with my youngest son. We had an errand to run that I figured would take us no more than an hour, so I could easily make it to the 11 AM mass. We were actually back pretty quickly, so with time to spare I decided to check out the morning playoff game on TV. Well one think led to another and I got caught up in the game and just like that it was after 11 o’clock and I had missed another mass. I suppose I could have gone late, but that’s like going in to see a movie after it has already started, I could never do that. There was another mass at noon anyway that I could still get to, so I settled in and watched more of the game.
As you probably already guessed I didn’t make it to the 12 PM mass either. I just couldn’t pull myself away from the game, it was a close one! I’m a Colts fan, ( as well as a Charger, Redskins, Steelers and Saints fan) and at that moment attending the church of the almighty NFL seemed more important to me. Besides, there was still the 5 PM youth mass, barring any unforeseen circumstances I could still make it to that one.
The morning game ended around 1:20 PM. the Colts lost. It was immediately followed by the afternoon playoff game, a great afternoon for football fans. That game ended around 4:20. Again my team (Redskins) lost. I remember wondering if the result of both games might have been different if I had gotten up and gone to mass in the morning as originally planned. One has to wonder. Knowing that I had plenty of time to make it to 5 o’clock mass I sat back in my armchair and watched game highlights secretly hoping that I might doze off, which would then cause me to miss my last opportunity to attend mass, but God had other plans. At 4:45 I turned off the TV, changed my shirt, grabbed my prayer book and dutifully headed off to church.
Opening up the garage door I discovered that not only was it cold out, it had also been raining. For just a moment I entertained the idea of forgetting church and going back to the warmth and comfort of the family room. I could always start my return to church thing next week. I thought about it for about a half minute and made my decision. I grabbed an umbrella and drove out into the wintry weather, destination Holy Name of Mary.
I have to tell you, the moment I walked into church I knew I’d made the right decision. I immediately felt so at ease, it was so warm and comfortable, like entering the home of a close friend or family member. For a moment I almost expected to see Mauricio the owner and official greeter of the Mexican restaurant we frequent come walking forward with his hand extended in friendship, laying his familiar greeting on me.”Where you been?” “Well it’s about time!” It wasn’t Mauricio who greeted us but we were greeted by Father Rich, the pastor of HNM. And as we were speaking to him my youngest son and my son-in-law arrived. To say they were a bit surprised to see me there is an understatement. Yeah, it was really good to be back.
Another welcoming sight was the Celebrant of the evening mass, Father Bill Moore who was pastor at HNM from 1994 to 1997. What an incredible individual, simple, yet compassionate, a gentle man, a true believer! What he says is heartfelt and it is easy to see and feel his undying love of God. Father Bill is also quite an artist! Before the new church was built several of his pieces graced the old church. Yes I must say it was a rare and pleasant treat to have him saying the mass.
His homily was superb. As always, he spoke with passion and conviction. Since yesterday was the Feast Day of the Epiphany he spoke about the three Magi /Wise Men and their decision to come to Bethlehem by way of Jerusalem and King Herod which resulted in the massacre of countless innocent babies by order of Herod who wanted to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn king of the Jews. He told us that today we refer to the three traveling kings as wise men. but reminded us that the Magi were not viewed as such wise men by the early Christians Church, there decision to seek the new born king in Jerusalem was viewed as foolish. As I thought about it I realized he was probably right.
He went on to say that the Magi weren’t familiar with the Jewish faith, has they been they would have never gone to Jerusalem and were merely following the signs they had read in the stars that a new king had been born. This led to a discourse on the many paths that are available to man in his quest to find God. I have long held the belief that one does not have to come to the House of God each and every Sunday to find God. What Bill was saying served to reinforce my belief. God can be found everywhere and the simplest way of finding Him is a quiet, meditation, a journey within. “Be still and see.”
The purpose of attending mass or any Sunday service is not to satisfy some mandate or church law, or for fear that you will go to hell if yo do not, but simply to worship God as one body of believers. Church is fellowship of the Word. Each and everyone of us is the church. Attending Sunday service is a personal choice. One can keep holy the Lords Day without physically being inside a church. Remember Christ said that wherever two or more are gathered in His name He is there among them. He didn’t say whenever two or more are gathered in His name in a church did He? No, Sunday mass and services are about community. A body of believers coming together to worship and praise our God. We are there to support one another and grow in faith as God has commanded. Our attendance is a matter of choice. If you really don’t want to be there or feel that your there for the wrong reasons then perhaps you should seek another path to God, one that works for you.
Yes Father Bill always seems to get to the heart of the matter and get the gray matter going. There are many paths that lead us to God and His eternal salvation. it doesn’t matter which path we choice. All that matters is the end result. I gotta tell you, I certainly picked a good mass to return to, or maybe someone of a much higher authority made the choice for me. I wonder.