I was out on my first Friday visits last Thursday afternoon, running in and out of houses trying to avoid the wind and wind. In the midst of all the mayhem I decided to call into one of the shops in Top of the Hill. I was going in to buy the Derry News which is unusual because I’m more of a Journal man myself.
I had reason because I’m involved in the Fantasy football league and the results and commentary are published on Thursday. It proves how much I know about football because I’m duly lagging behind in last place. My only excuse is a bad run of injuries, on a few occasions I had at least three or four players not featuring for various reasons.
As you might guess plenty of abuse has been sent in my direction, one comment reckoned it would require a bigger comeback then Lazarus for me to have any chance of winning. At this stage I would settle for second last and thankfully I’m gaining ground. Matters aren’t helped by the fact I officiated at the wedding of the paper’s sports editor and he still hasn’t forgiven me.
Well back in the shop I was in for a shock because there is no escaping the boss these days. I was about to buy the paper when I noticed Fr Canny’s smiling face looking up at me from the front page. The headline read ‘90% Of Catholics Not Going To Mass.’ Whatever about the weather outside I was looking to take shelter from the three regulars who were having a debate about the headline.
The irony of the scene was the reality I was the only one who was buying the paper the rest looked on and unfortunately I was dragged into the banter and the argument. The woman behind the counter was glad of the rest bite and the fact I had actually bought something.
Whilst the other three men who only lacked a greyhound and cloth caps to perfect the scene were only taking shelter from the rain or looking for the famous pint of milk to get out of the house for half an hour. Unfortunately we didn’t solve the crisis but I was left with one question which I was asked to think about, ‘why are people not coming to Mass?’ I suppose there are as many answers as people.
There are various reasons, from the impact of the recent scandals, the hurt and harm caused by many in positions of authority and trust. Church teaching for some is viewed as controversial, outdated, out of touch and inconsistent with our modern world.
The reality for many of our generation concerns our celebration of Mass which for them has become meaningless, boring and far removed from their everyday lives.
Not everyone has a reasoned position or attitude for some it has been a slow and gradual drift away from the celebration of the sacraments. It no longer features on people’s agendas or part of their routine. It has to make all of us as a Church to seriously reflect on our own position. Our celebration of the Eucharist is meant to be life giving, an encounter with the living God which is supposed to change and transform our lives.
Yet much of the time we can find ourselves going through the motions not thinking seriously about why we come to Mass and when we do come what it is we are celebrating.
The reason why we come together as a people, as a local community each weekend is to respond to God’s invitation. We gather as God’s people, he brings us together to celebrate his presence in our lives. At the last summer Jesus’ asks to commemorate the sacrifice he made on the cross.
In the bread and wine he offers us the gift of his very self, his flesh and blood. Receiving Jesus into our hearts we become a part of his body, strengthened and nourished to be his witnesses in the world.
It’s in our participation in Mass which highlights how we are sons and daughter of the Father and brothers and sisters in Christ.
Every time we respond to Christ’s invitation to gather in memory of him, to offer his body, Jesus and his great sacrificial love become present in our midst.
The challenge is then to become what we receive, namely the body of Christ and this is only possible if Christ is in the heart of our lives as his people. Each of us has part of his body has a part to play, together we help, guide, support and correct one another based on hearing God’s word, answering his call and celebrating the sacrifice which he left to his people.
‘The Church, which has a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, must go to the crossroads in order to invite to the wedding feast all those it enters, ‘bad and good alike,’ but also to teach them the demands of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christians assembled around the Lord’s table have the heavy responsibility to ‘manifest to others … the real nature of the true Church’ and the meaning of participation in the Eucharist … Each one has the duty to act in such a way that most people become aware of the invitation to the Lord’s meal, and many are moved to join them when they see Christians celebrating … [But] there is no room for self-glorification, because all know that their strength comes from God, beginning with the fruits of conversion which the grace of the Eucharist causes them to produce, and which they offer together with Christ’s offering.” (Days of the Lord, Vol. 4: Ordinary Time, Year A, p. 220)