Ecclesiam res et talia sermocinamur -

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Monday, March 13, 2006

On the Mass

I have, for the time being, concluded my travels and adventures, and thus will share some thoughts, as promised.

The talk we went to was given, for anyone in the Columbus area, by Deacon Keating, who is apparently well known around those parts. He began by using the story of the apostles on the road to Emaus as an illustration of the Mass. Christ comes to the two apostles, and recounts and explains to them the Scriptures, and their hearts burn within them. Then, when they arrive in the town, they implore Christ to "remain with" them, for night was drawing near. Likewise, we go to Mass, and we hear the Scriptures, and we hear the priest (hopefully) explain them, and we too should have this burning in our hearts -- not merely a warm fuzzy feeling, but the fire of love driven by Christ, who is after all the hero of history's greatest love story. The word remain also rings stronger and truer than other words for simply being in one place, such as stay -- it implies an abiding, a spiritual as well as a physical aspect. Jesus uses the same word at the Ascension: "I will remain with you always..." So just like the apostles, after hearing the word of God we desire for Him to remain with us, to abide in us in the Eucharist; we beg Him to shield us from the darkness of sin.

That led of course to the Eucharist itself. And his most poignant point on that topic reminded me of a question asked by one of my second graders last week. She asked, in regards to the Blessed Sacrament, "but isn't Jesus EVERYWHERE?" This of course was more difficult to answer than you might think, because of the limited capacity of seven year olds to distinguish between different natures and other metaphysical characteristics. Deacon Keating, however, used a personal example to underscore the importance of going to Mass and appreciating the Eucharist.

Keating mentioned the people who claim not to need to go to Mass, that God is everywhere, and that therefore they can just go walk in the woods and think about Jesus, and find Him in the natural world, and find fulfillment and feel good that way. Apparently this is a problem even among Catholics (poorly catechized ones who want to be entertained at Mass and are therefore disappointed every week). Seeming to change themes, Keating said that every month, he and his wife (he's a permanent deacon) go out to a nice dinner on pay day, before the various bills have eaten the paycheck and there's nothing left for that sort of thing. He pointed out that the people who go walk in the woods are like him if, when his wife called on pay day to say she was waiting for him at the restaurant, he said: "Well, today, I think I'm not going to go down to the restaurant -- I'm going to go to the park across from my office, and walk around and think of you instead. And the blue sky will remind me of your eyes, and the weeds will remind of your hair, and I can see you in the park and it will be very fulfilling." His wife, of course, would say, "Are you crazy? I'm sitting here in this restaurant waiting for you, and you're talking about looking at weeds in the park? Get a grip and come down here."

And that is what Christ says to all the people who go walking in the woods -- He sits there on the altar, inviting the whole world to come and share in His sacrificial feast, and so many of us are off looking at weeds.

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