“Most men and women are searching desperately for a church that will change the world without asking them to change anything about themselves.”
My family and I attended a three-day mission at our church in preparation for Christmas. The visiting priest, Fr. Bob related a great story from his youth.
He recalled fondly how, as a teen-ager he loved serving daily mass. Each weekday before sunrise he would get up and walk to church. There he’d serve mass and return home for a hearty breakfast with his family. The countless hours he spent alone in a quiet church were some of the fondest memories from his youth and provided sturdy pilings on which to build his character.
One morning, while he was eating his breakfast his mother caught him completely off guard when she said, “Bobby, I am not sure why you keep going to mass every day, seeing how you treat your younger brothers!” Bobby was stunned; one part of him was hurt while the other part of him was angry.
After several days spent brooding, Bobby simmered down and eventually admitted to himself that his mother was right. He was treating his brothers unfairly and showed them neither love nor respect. The choice was clear; the way out for him obvious. Based on his mother’s earlier denigration of him, Bobby decided to not only stop serving mass but to stop going to church altogether!
Everyone in the church nervously laughed at the irony…everyone but Fr. Bob.
Thankfully, Bobby’s hiatus was short-lived and he was back on track in no time. Those early days that he spent in church led to a fifty-year plus devotion to religious life.
Obviously, his mother’s approach was wrong. Church is precisely the place that should be most frequented by people who want to learn to love and respect others. We can’t hear it enough, church is not a hall of fame for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners.
I spend a fair amount of time in church. I love the quiet I find there and it offers me numerous, necessary chances to reflect on the trajectory of my life…providing a vital connection to the life of God. I feel a meaningfulness in church that I cannot explain. I am drawn to it from somewhere deep inside of me.
However, like young Bobby I must appear to be a spiritual impostor to my family some days. I wish this were not the case. I wish I could be a better standard bearer for the Christian faith. I must not allow my coming up short as a Christ-follower to derail me from getting to church. My falling short is further evidence that I still have much to learn, grasp and live in my faith journey.
The essence of our faith is change. God’s message throughout the bible is rooted in personal and communal transformation. We are called upon repeatedly to shake off the chains that bind us and keep us staked to our lesser selves.
Don’t ever stop going to church. Each of us falls short of glory. Gratefully and with God’s grace, we will, in time have every good chance of becoming what we worship.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!