Throughout my years of working in youth ministry, the number one response I receive when I ask students about their Church-going habits is that they don’t go because it is boring. Second and third place responses are usually tied to issues of oversleeping or perhaps Mass, for them, simply isn’t a family affair. Granted, a good number of the teens I work with do attend Mass faithfully. On the other hand there are a few who rarely do. If there is anything that I can hope to accomplish in youth ministry it is this: that every one of them would fall madly in love with the Eucharist. More than hype, more than fun and games (which are absolutely crucial) my only desire for these young souls is that they allow for their hearts to be swept away in desire for Christ in the Eucharist. Truly, this would be the greatest accomplishment of any parish ministry.
In my own personal experience, especially during the year that I made the plunge and entered into RCIA, I began to develop a spiritual hunger for the Eucharist. Spending a great deal of time in personal conversion and formation I desired nothing more than to be able to gather around the same table with my newfound brothers and sisters. Oddly enough, this was the same bread and wine that, in a year’s time, went from being just a symbol to the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. It, of course, did not ‘all of the sudden’ become these things because it had always been these things. For me, the veil had finally been lifted and I knew what I was truly missing. Undoubtedly this lifting of the veil was the work of the Holy Spirit, I was drawing closer to God because He had been drawing close to me FIRST!
The moment of conversion typically occurs when we answer God’s call. Our conversion begins once we finally take notice of the voice that had been calling us all along. Obviously Saul and his incident of being knocked down from his steed was an excellent example of God’s divine plan in action. This is not to say that God would ever force us against our will but at times he might go as far to make his points blatantly obvious. The writings of Sacred Scripture and even throughout the history of the Church since then have been chocked full of miracles, apparitions, and other private revelations that have inspired the lives of many who are canonized saints in the Church today. The common thread among these instances of private revelation and other notable moments of conversion is the one ingredient that makes them all genuinely worth mentioning: the Eucharist.
“So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.” – James 4:7-8
Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and he knocks, every day he knocks. Some days we peek to see who is there, some days we open wide the door, and other days we pretend like we aren’t home and hope Jesus will just go away. We’re incredibly fickle beings; nevertheless, Jesus continues to knock. Just as in the moments where we find ourselves shameful for having confessed the same sin for the third time in a row sometimes we might fear that we are ‘too far gone’ or that Jesus will eventually get the hint and quit knocking altogether. For one reason or another, we tend to prolong our warm welcoming of Jesus. These moments of stalling are most commonly attributed to one of our feet being in the world and the other being in the Church. We want both! We want to feel good without any real sense of sacrifice.
“But I, miserable young man, supremely miserable even in the very outset of my youth, had entreated chastity of You, and said, Grant me chastity and continency, but not yet. For I was afraid lest You should hear me soon, and soon deliver me from the disease of concupiscence, which I desired to have satisfied rather than extinguished.”
– St. Augustine
Having a foot in the door of the Church and the other in the world is a certain recipe for a boring Mass experience. Have you ever gone on a date to Buffalo Wild Wings when the big game is on? I mean, the girl or guy in front of you is mighty attractive but just over their shoulder is Oh! Oh! TOUCHDOWN! In retrospect you notice that the game was good but the date was lackluster. You weren’t engaged in the conversation and there was never any real opportunity for romantic feelings to develop. When we approach the Mass in this same way we are barring our hearts from a genuine conversion encounter. We are going out of our way to meet with Jesus but once we get there we are simply counting down the minutes and refusing to give Him the time of day.
Without real sacrifice, there can never be real love. Mass will never be interesting until we faithfully respond to Jesus as he knocks. It is only when we press in and begin to pray, spend time in the Scriptures, and reorient the focus of our lives towards an authentic relationship with Christ that Mass will even begin to make sense. Let’s get real for a minute, Protestants are dishing out award-worthy praise and worship music and following it up with rock-solid preaching. You don’t have to try to be interested in some of these modern Church movements; you just have to be awake. I once read that the Catholic Church has taken the long and boring road since 33 AD but you know what? That road has been tested and tried and it is true. You will never find a more genuine encounter with Christ, this side of heaven, than you will in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Is Mass boring? No.