From Our Pastor: Thanksgiving turns into Advent…
As we give thanks as a nation, we need to make sure we give thanks as a people. Many are worried and living in fear. This doesn’t mean we run to death, but as faithful Catholics we should not fear death. The obligation to mass is still lifted. The restrictions from the government remain, but brothers and sisters we can not so easily stop making Mass a priority.
My biggest concern in writing this is the people who should be cautious and have every reason to stay away from crowds will hear this and they will return. Their faith is so strong and so inspiring to many. In fact, many of those people are the people still sitting in the pews. Some I am concerned have no worries about going in public, going to work and school, going out to eat, going to the store, and yes going to Thanksgiving dinners with family, extended family, and friends, but do not come to Mass. Again, the obligation is lifted, but it shouldn’t need to be an obligation that draws one to Mass. It should be the grateful response of a grateful steward for all that God gives us.
Many people forget that the pillars of stewardship are hospitality, prayer, formation and service. As we have done our stewardship renewal, I would encourage you to remember especially the pillars of formation and of utmost importance prayer. The greatest prayer we offer is the Mass…the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ offered for you and to you. The word Eucharist means Thanksgiving. As we have celebrated as a nation and families in some way, maybe vastly different than what our norm is, let us not put our celebration of the Thanksgiving of the Mass of Jesus Christ behind anything in our lives. Our Catholic brothers and sisters of old lived through some of the most atrocious moments in history, but even at the peril of their lives, they would not shrink from Mass. Not because of obligation, but because of Thanksgiving and Gratitude. Do not wait for the obligation to be placed again for Mass to become a priority again. And as always, Mass should remain a priority above all else including anger at God, school, sports, work, sleep, sadness, and fear. You must make your decisions wisely.
May I offer a suggestion, that if you still feel that it is too dangerous for you and/or your family to attend Mass, not only watch at home, but watch at home just as you would be attending. Many parents have said their children don’t pay attention or lay around. Instead of setting it up like you’re watching a movie, set it up like you are going to Church. Make yourself and your kids get cleaned up and dressed up as they would normally for Mass or even more than they are used to. Fast one hour before you watch the Mass on TV or livestream or a recording of that day. Set up dining room chairs or folding chairs in front of the couches to remind you of how much you miss our comfortable pews. Don’t allow them on their iPads or phones or computers in Mass, just like I would hope you wouldn’t allow it in the Church. Most especially either as yourself or making sure those in your care pay attention, respond to all the prayers, not eat or chew gum, sing, and make their spiritual communion. It is not equivalent to attending Mass, but it will start to turn that time back to the Lord instead of one leisure. Make this part of your return to Mass as something of priority and importance which we pray will lead you back here. If your fear is receiving the Eucharist because of germs and processions, come and go to Mass, while remaining always in your pew always in a mask. Remember when there is an obligation placed back on the obligation is to attendance at Mass every Sunday, NOT to receiving the Eucharist, except once a year. Still make time for regular confession. Make more time for prayer throughout the day and week because of the missing grace of not being physically at the Mass. Read the scriptures every day. Use the FORMED and Parish apps for spiritual growth. Make some kind of regular penance, or fasting every week, as we always should.
Take this time, if away or not, to renew yourself to the Lord. For as we have now finished one Church year being reminded of our end with Jesus Christ King of the Universe, it also means we begin a new Church year with this Advent season. Advent means waiting. In this time of waiting for the coming of Christ, make a place for Him more and more in your hearts and homes and children and all your lives. And as we wait, do not wait too long to return to Mass, for as we know when we celebrate the Lord taking flesh and coming to be with His people at Christmas, and feeding us with that very flesh at every Mass. We do not know when He will come again in the second coming or when we will see Him face to face. Always be ready, most especially with the sacraments.
As is often said in Advent…Come Lord Jesus. When He does, may He find, not a people of only obligation, but a grateful people in true Thanksgiving and a way prepared for Him in your heart.
Rev. Steven Arisman