Monday, March 14, 2016

We should not stay away from our assembly as is the custom of some, but encourage one another

That verse from the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter ten verse 25, applies more and more often to us in our own day and, probably, to Christians in every generation. Due to our human condition after the "original sin" or "trouble at the origins of humanity", our natural inclination is no longer to worship God and offer Him thanks and praise, but rather to "go it alone" or "do our own thing" or just simply dispense ourselves from being dependent on anyone else, not even God.

Those who know me remember that I've never been one to "push religion" with anyone. I don't want to change in this outlook but to continue respecting another's own freedom and responsibility to engage in their own life journey and their own personal faith relationship with God and to travel on the road of life with other fellow Christians within the Church Jesus founded and died that we might all have life together in Him....

What often keeps me awake late at night and so is prompting me to write this love note is simply the kind of thing that comes up in conversation and then presses on my mind and in my heart.... It might be prompted when others share with me their experience of Sunday worship or simply their inclination no longer to go or not go so often. They may have had their own experience of participating - for a number of years - and how at times our Sunday worship can be an occasion of pain because of others....

One may say something that gives an impression of perhaps not joining in so often anymore in the Sunday worship.... I remember from what place in me friendly, fraternal words come... that place deep within me where pain and exhilaration meet... from the history of my life, of our lives, in all of those moments of human experience when life seems to be overwhelming... and if it weren't for God's love for me and personal experiences of that love, especially in the regular rhythm of Sunday worship, and also of Penance and Reconciliation, I know that I just wouldn't have made it this far in my life...

It would literally tear my heart out for me to hear or discover than anyone of my family or friends, or other Catholics or Christians, would suffer through life's many challenges and difficulties and feel isolated, or alone, or overwhelmed by it all and not taste the goodness of the Lord, especially when we allow Him to surround us with others just like us, fallible and imperfect and equally in need of God's love and mercy and understanding and consolation and wisdom and strength and peace.... I've been witness to far too many lives of those who, young and old, deprived themselves of frequenting the Lord in his Sunday Assembly and became so isolated and caught, strangled in the narrowness of their own troubled thoughts and agonizing heart, that their poor life didn't go so well, or even tragically.... Please don't let it happen to any of you....

The Father... and Jesus... and the Holy Spirit are EVERYWHERE and ALWAYS present... and we weak human beings, being in large part social, stand forever in need of being touched by the Lord in the midst of his great Sunday Assemblies.... When we stay away too long, ever so slowly the boundaries of our own thoughts and movements of our heart can shrink and we can find ourselves caught in an interior landscape that has become too narrow, tight, restricting, and even suffocating... and life can become unbearable... I know, I remember, from my own personal experience in adolescence, and then later again in my youth, and then yet again in my young adulthood... and at times even now through the many seasons of life....

Why did I forget to invite the Lord in when He knocked at the door of my heart? Why do I ever forget? I don't know... yes, I do... it's our human condition... but I remember with gratitude that He sent and still sends someone to remind me to listen for Jesus' gentle knock at the door of my heart and encouraged me to open up to Him without fear... and yet again, after having forgotten several times, I got to experience anew why we call Jesus our Savior... because I needed Him to shine his divine light into my confused mind... and inflame my smoldering heart with the burning fire of his divine love... and heal my wounded and damaged sense of my failing or impoverished life by the kind and merciful look of his eyes when I found myself seeking his forgiveness or just pouring out my troubles through one of the priests He went to a lot of trouble to send my way.... 

I know that I am more of a sinner than all of you, and you probably remain close to the Holy Trinity in the course of your daily life and continue to experience the conviction that God loves you and cares for you, but if you find yourself having neglected to accept Jesus' invitations to worship Him and his / our Father and the Holy Spirit in his Sunday Assembly, if you won't go back for your own sake, perhaps you might be willing to do it for me... and for Jesus Himself... just because He would like you to go because of what it is that He wants to do for you that He can only do for you when you are there among the others like us, to worship God and thank Him, regardless of how beautiful or how painful the music may be or the preaching may be....

There are some inner turmoils for which we can find no solutions because only God can give them, and He can only activate them within us through the instruments He has chosen and prepared for us.... I know, being a priest myself but at the same time a poor sinful human being like you, how much trouble Jesus has gone to over the years to make of me the instrument that I am or can be when I am attentive to Him.... It is out of love for you and me that Jesus gives us the priests we have, and their imperfection is simply an echo of our own human imperfection and a reminder that it is God alone who is perfect and who is qualified and empowered to bring about in us the impossible beautiful things we long for....

I have also learned from my own experience as well as that of so many other lives that we cannot expect fairly from God a "command performance", that He do for us, for me, exactly what I want and precisely when I want it.... Much of what I need from God and what He wants to give can only come gradually, a little at a time, through regular organically developing installments, one Sunday at a time, which is why He gave the third commandment, to "keep holy the Lord's day"... not only with Sunday Worship but also with praying and playing together as a family and taking time to rest....

May you all taste deeply and regularly of the "goodness" of the Lord....

Please don't take any of this as "preaching" because it isn't that at all... but only the pangs of my love for each of you and for all of you together as the beautiful family that you are, and my friends....