Okay, enough December Baby Syndrome, let's go back to my 16th birthday. We all decided to celebrate my birthday at this all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet place. I know how classy that must sound, but it was a very nice and well-decorated place. Trust me on this one. It has since closed down (along with every other place in this complex. However, the food was phenomenal and the atmosphere was great. I got the perfect birthday invites (featuring a group of donkeys playing pin the bum on the human). I got the invites out relatively early so everyone could schedule accordingly and even picked a day that would not conflict with Christmas stuff. I even handed each invite out personally. I invited about 20 people and almost all of them RSVP'ed.
However, when the time came for my party...only 4-5 people came. Imagine sitting at the head of a huge table set for 20 odd people and seeing only seeing a fraction of that table filled up. You can say I was a little hurt at first...but then made the best of it. Everyone had a great time and when I look back I remember more of the laughs than I do the disappointment.
"For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." -Matthew 18:20
The way I felt at my Sweet 16 party is probably an imperfect human version of what Christ (true God and true man) must feel every time he invites us all to mass and we don't show up. It must break his heart to see an empty pew instead of a family he knows and loves. Yet, Christ most likely rejoices when all the people attending mass read scripture, pray as a HUGE Catholic family, greet their neighbor, are forever changed by a great homily, go up to receive, or kneel in contemplative prayer if they are not yet ready to receive (I’m normally guilty of this…).
|The church where my mom used to go to mass as a child in Sobral de Sao Miguel, Portugal. |
Photograph taken after most of the people had filed out after mass.
I certainly felt a connection to her and many other saints here during mass.
I know some of the skeptics out there are probably asking "Well, if you're so smart, when did I get the invite and when did I RSVP?" Consider baptism your invite. Christ invited you into his Church, your parents brought you over, and you were received into his Church. I know most of us were babies when we got the invite, and had no idea what was going on...but it's still the first step in a lifelong commitment to Christ. How can we RSVP as babies? Well, you really can't do much as a baby, which is why we get a chance to RSVP once we're older. Consider your first Holy Communion as an RSVP.
You don't go through CCD just so you can wear a suit (or white, puffy dress) and then get blinded by flash photography as you receive the Eucharist for the first time. You don't go through CCD just because your parents made you. I know this is a dangerous lesson for kids to learn at too young an age, but your parents really can't force you to do anything. You can disappoint them and absolutely refuse to go through your first Communion. You can, hypothetically use any number of the tactics you used to get out of going to school. If you kick and scream enough, I am sure that you could (hypothetically) get out of going through with it. Yet, I am sure, there's a need for all of us...even as kids, to go through with this. I remember wanting to be a part of the whole Catholic mystery that my parents seemed to know so much about. I remember wanting to go up and receive as a child, even before I was old enough or prepared enough to receive. I remember wanting to get involved. I remember a bit of a calling. I’m sure that a lot of Catholics out there remember a calling when it came to their first communion…a calling to greater things that we may still not completely understand.
We all like to think of ourselves as individuals, but we really are part of something much more infinite and wonderful than we could ever imagine. Whenever we got to mass, we get to experience something universal. You see, going to mass is a way for us to experience the Church in action. The Church isn’t just some huge white building in Rome, full of old men in robes. It is much greater than that. It is a living, breathing community comprised of every saint as well as saint-in-training led by God to something much greater than we can imagine. God send his son to Earth 2000 years ago so that he could invite us to become a part of His infinite, glorious plan for us. He wants to share this plan with us. He wants us to join Him in heaven. He wants to share His love with us. Christ has already invited us to be a part of this and we have already RSVP’ed. Yet, it’s up to us to make good on our word.
When you receive your first Eucharist, the priest invites you to receive the body of Christ. What do we say when we receive? AMEN. This “amen” demonstrates your knowledge and agreement that the Eucharist is the body of Christ. It also serves as an RSVP. By saying “amen,” you acknowledge that you are in Christ’s presence and that you have decided to welcome this presence in your everyday life. Coming to mass, you will see in my next post in this series, is absolutely necessary if you truly wish to be in Christ’s presence. Why? Two word preview: The Eucharist.