What Do We 'get out of' Going to Church on Sunday?
Is that the point?...what you get out of it?
By Hank Mattimore
Having breakfast with a friend after Mass last Sunday, I was a little surprised to hear her say bluntly “That’s it for me. I’m not going to Church here anymore. The liturgy is same-o, same-o every week, the music is mediocre, the sermons mostly uninspired. I’m just not getting anything out of it anymore.”
When I asked her “Is that the point?...what you get out of it ?” She replied, with a little edge to her voice, “Yes, it’s the point. If my soul is not getting nourished, why should I continue to go? If I sign up for a yoga class and find out that I’m not getting my money’s worth, I don’t continue to attend. If I find that the Spanish language class I enrolled in is not working out, I quit.” Makes perfect sense to me.
I have to acknowledge that there are Sunday Mass experiences that are pretty bad. On that particular Sunday we had a foreign-born priest we couldn’t understand, a screechy choir and a little baby who let it be known that he was not ready to be dragged into church. So, I did understand her frustration. And yet, and yet…….
Isn’t Sunday Mass somehow different from attending a series of lectures or taking an art appreciation class? Isn’t what we bring to a church service, not what we take from it, the point? We show up at our parish church because we are part of a wider family of Catholics. I see it like that semi-obligatory Sunday visit to grandma’s house. It’s something we do because it seems like the right thing. Sometimes, we will experience a rush from the experience but more likely, any spiritual high we feel will be a pleasant surprise. We’re not there to receive but to give. Isn’t that what the prayer of St.Francis is all about?
When we put our butts in the pews we make a statement that we want to be part of something much bigger than our own needs. We come to honor the God who created us out of love and continues to grace us with the divine presence. That’s what is important, not the fact that the choir is slightly off key or that the old guy in front of me is rattling his rosary beads and making my spiritual experience less meaningful.
That doesn’t mean our priest and parish staff gets off the hook if they are too lazy or lack the imagination to come up with a liturgy that is meaningful. We have a right to expect a well-prepared homily and a ceremony that will help us connect with our God and with one another. It doesn’t let ourselves off the hook either if we fail to participate in the liturgy to the extent we are able. If we’re bored with the same old lectors every Sunday or the same old geezers taking up the collection, maybe it’s time we step up and offer to help.
What I am trying to say, however inexpertly, is that the very fact that we are blessed with the opportunity of celebrating God’s presence in our midst at Sunday Mass transcends any personal good feeling or emotional rush we experience. Ultimately, it’s, dare I say it?, not about how we sing our hymns or when we genuflect but how we show our love and concern to the folks in Church with us and, by extension, our fellow human beings with whom we share our planet.
Hank Mattimore oftens contributes to CORPUS through his writings and blog. He resides in Santa Rosa, CA. You can respond to his writings by going to his blog, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog address is: http://yagrowsoryadies.blogharbor.com
Reprinted from E-CORPUS (Nov. 5/100.