Why do our churches seem half-empty sometimes? Why are our neighbors staying home from Mass? St. John Chrysostom warns us that the real blame is not with those who stayed away, but with us who went to church and didn’t bring our neighbors with us.
It seems I did no good with the long harangue I addressed to you a while ago, hoping to rouse up your enthusiasm for the meetings here. Once again our church is destitute of her children. So once again I have to annoy and burden you by reproving those who are present and faulting those who are left behind—faulting them because they have not overcome their laziness, and you because you have not lent the salvation of your brothers and sisters a helping hand.
My remarks are not so much directed at them as at you, because you haven’t brought them in—you don’t rouse them from their inertia and bring them to this table of salvation. How many fathers are here whose sons aren’t standing next to them? Was it so hard for you to bring some of your children with you?
So it’s clear that the absence of all the others who stayed away is not just because of their own laziness, but also because of your neglect.
But now, even if you’ve never done it before, stir yourselves up. Let each one of you enter the church with one of your family. Prod and urge one another to the congregation here—the father should urge his son, the son his father, the husbands their wives, the wives their husbands, the master his servant, the brother his brother, the friend his friend. In fact, let us not call only our friends but also our enemies to this common treasury of good things. If your enemy sees that you care for his welfare, he will doubtless give up hating you.
–St. John Chrysostom, To Those Who Had Not Attended the Assembly, 1, 3IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
Have I brought anyone to church lately?
What am I doing to persuade even my enemies that they need the Mass?
Lord, help me see myself as a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to love everyone whose life I touch—the people who have authority over me and the people over whom I have authority, my friends and my enemies.
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