Catholics are going to go back to mass when the pandemic is over.
I gather that there are evidently a few priests who fear that now that Catholics have experienced the ease and convenience of tuning into their parish mass on the internet, they won’t be willing to return to the sitting/standing/kneeling/coughing-when-incense-is-used for-real Mass with an actual Eucharist.
Some of the solutions the priestly caste are advancing for what they fear will be a forthcoming mass apostasy that reduces the church to the faithful remnant Pope Benedict XVI used to talk about is better music and preaching, and oh yes, new rules that insist that the faithful fast for hours before showing up at the altar so they’ll have the proper reverence for the whole thing.
Me, I’m reading this stuff and sitting here shaking my head in amusement. COVID-19 and the insane incompetent in the White House have given a lot of people a bad case of the fraidy cats. It appears that priests are among those who are afflicted.
Let me tell you a big secret. Yes, the stock market is behaving in ways that don’t make economic sense. Yes, the president of the United States is a shambolic mess of a man who is going to kill a lot of people — and I mean a lot of people — if we don’t manage to retire him in November. Yes, Virginia, we have racism in America. And Yes, COVID-19 is a killer virus that has kept all of us nailed down for months and will continue to keep us nailed down until the nerds who work on these things develop a vaccine and nail the virus down instead.
It’s all true.
But Jesus is still Lord.
Every word He said is true.
If you want to get a bit of His strength and love, if you want to reach out and touch Him and be healed like the woman with the hemorrhage, then go to Mass. Get up off your sofa, take off your pajamas and put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and go to the cell-phone-ringing, baby-screaming, incense-puffing, same-old-hymn-singing, Catholic Mass and partake of the Eucharist.
People know that Christ is in the Eucharist. After some of the things I’ve read, I think they know it better than the priests.
People will come back to the mass. Because Jesus is there.
It has nothing, or next to nothing, to do with the priests. It has less than nothing to do with the music and the homilies and whether or not they accept the authority of the bishops.
People come to mass for Jesus. They will come back to mass because Jesus is there.
So all you priests who are hyperventilating because you’re afraid that this long hiatus from the real deal of the in-person mass has allowed people to figure out that you’re not all that holy and they’re going to stay away because of it, you can take a deep breath and relax. We’ve always known that you’re not all that holy. We love you for the fact that you hear our confessions and down yell Sinner! And kick us out of the confessional. We cherish you because you show up with your oils and anoint us when we’re sick, because you stand ready to marry/bury and console us any time we need it. You do all this as if you really had nothing better to do.
We know you’re not all that holy. We know you curse, lose your temper, gossip, and have all manner of human failings. But we also know that you’re good guys who try hard to do a good job and that we can count on you to always be there, doing that hoo-doo that you do when we need you to do it. We can call you in the middle of the night and say we’ve had a car wreck and things look bad and you’ll get up out of bed and come on over to hold our hands, pray with us and, if necessary, see us off to the next life. We trust you to do this, and our trust is not misplaced. We can count on you, and we know it.
So relax. We know you’re not a saint. But we know you’re good. And we trust you.
We don’t, and we never did come to mass because of the music or your homilies or, heaven help us, the incense. Truth told, that sickly smell of burning incense is really kind of gag-inducing for a lot of us.
You don’t need to try to screw us to the mass with onerous demands that we fast for hours before we approach the altar. We won’t respect you more if you cloak the mystery in pretend magic.
We won’t come back for these things. We weren’t there for them in the first place.
We will come back because Jesus is there, in the Eucharist, and we can partake of Him.
Catholics don’t have to work themselves into frenzies, trying to access the Divine. All we have to do is receive Him in the Eucharist. It’s as simple as standing in line, reaching out with cupped hands and saying “Amen.”
We can touch Jesus and be healed by receiving Him in the Eucharist. That’s why we come. It’s why we’re going to come back.
Our Lord didn’t wrap the Eucharist in layers of mystery. He didn’t use fireworks and magic to clothe His Real Presence. He broke the bread and held it out and said Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. He lifted the cup and offered it and said This is my blood which is poured out for you.
Bread. Wine. Ordinary things found at any dinner table. My body … My blood … for you.
Being a priest does not make you any smarter, or holier, than the rest of us. You may think you’ve been keeping that a big secret, but we already know it. We’ve always known it.
But you alone have the words that lead to eternal life. We know that too.
We’ll be back to mass when mass re-opens for real.
Because Jesus is there. And Jesus is our God.