A while ago I heard an elderly person struggling with issues of old age say that in his life Jesus endured every kind of human suffering except old age. I thought how true, he was only 33 years old when he died. He could not have faced any challenges that we might experience as we grow older. However, I recently realized how wrong that statement was.
Consider Jesus today. It is really, truly Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist – body, soul and divinity. All that was Jesus during his 33 years of life on Earth is all present as the Eucharist. Certainly for us as humans, the visual presence of Jesus has changed, but that does nothing to alter the fact that it is the same Jesus. With that in mind consider what he continues to endure in his “old age”.
Like a person confined to home or a health facility, Jesus waits for his brothers and sisters to come visit him, he can not go out to them without help. He sees that some come willingly, anxious to be with him. He sees those who come grudgingly, inattentive, sharing nothing with him. He sees those who are distracted, focused on something else. He sees those who smile and those who scowl. He witnesses the closeness of some and the distance of others. Perhaps most of all, he is painfully aware of those who did not come at all. Jesus knows exactly what it is like to be immobile and unable to communicate.
With that in mind, how are we responding to Jesus in his “old age”? Do we come willingly and openly to Mass? Do we participate and include everyone? Do we make time to share an extra visit with Jesus in addition to Sunday Mass? Do we take advantage of Eucharistic Adoration to gaze on him? Are we aware of his look of love toward us?
Sometimes our worship as Catholics is picked apart because it is different from other religious denominations. It needs to be different. It can not be the same as a social gathering – the King of the Universe is in our midst. We can not receive the host without reverence – we hold the Savior of the World. The reverence of the priest and the people is the only way we have to outwardly communicate that Catholic worship is different because present physically in our gathering is God.
The question about having sex before Marriage is an important one to grasp. It hints at something more than a common, usual experience. It alludes to something desirous that needs to be treated in a special way. Thus it is imperative to understand the act of sex and how it can manifest love.
The union of man and woman during sexual intercourse is a unique gift of giving and a clear role in the action of creation. The sanctity of sex is reflected in the ultimate communion of two people, the complete giving and receiving of one for another. In addition, that union may be further mirrored in a new human life. The act of sex brings man and woman together as one. It continues the story of creation. It must be an action of love.
For this reason, we can not treat sex as a casual, earthly event. When we recognize the sacred nature of this union, we must surround it with the reverence and appreciation that it deserves. The Church looks to Christ to understand the complete giving of self for another and how to embrace full communion.
When we consider how Christ became a man, suffered, died and rose for us, we have the truth about love. He is what love looks like. His witness shows that love is given totally, freely, faithfully, and fruitfully. He gave Himself without holding anything back. He did so freely, not forced. He remained faithful to us throughout his entire life on earth and continues to be with us in the Eucharist. The fruits of His action of love are mercy and the opening of Heaven.
By using this lens to look at having sex before Marriage, we can see the shortcomings of that action. Pre-marital sex is not a total and faithful giving of oneself because it lacks a complete commitment, no witnessed pledge or vow. Pre-marital sex is not often given freely, but rather coerced as a ‘show of love’ or ‘just something that two people do next.’ Pre-marital sex does not strengthen the family unit that children need.
With this truth of Christ before us, we see why sex is an action of love between husband and wife. Through the Sacrament of Marriage they have answered the questions that most identify a loving relationship:
- “Have you come here freely to give yourself to one another without reservation?”
- “Do you promise to be faithful until death?”
- “Do you promise to receive children lovingly from God?”
Their vows to one another are a witness to us that they desire to love one another as Christ loves his Church – TOTALLY, FREELY, FAITHFULLY, FRUITFULLY – and every time they unite in sex, it is a renewal of those vows.
It’s funny how our attendance at Mass has always been associated with the 10 Commandments, particularly to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day,” when actually it is for our benefit not God’s. With that in mind, here are five motives to go to Church on Sunday:
- 1. To feed a spiritual life – We often hear “I can pray better at home or in the mountains or alone.” Prayer at anytime is wonderful and necessary, but prayer at Mass is unique. It is God’s children gathering to share a meal. One form is not ‘better’ than another but ‘as important’ as the other. We need both types of food to nourish us.
- 2. To draw on God’s support – Much like any meal, we are strengthened and renewed to continue our work when we have eaten. If we dine on a meal of foul language and rude behavior, much like junk food, it will have its effect. If we enjoy a meal of God’s Word and the Body & Blood of Christ, it also will have its effect. In the case of Sunday Mass, we are gathering the nourishment we need for eternal life.
- To develop community – Just like any family gathering, we need to come together to strengthen our bonds and ties to one another. Just consider how much closer you are to brothers, sisters, or parents whom you see more regularly, as opposed to cousins and grandparents that you might not.
- To strengthen one another – The whole reason for strengthening our bonds and ties through our gathering for Sunday Mass is to be able to support one another. How would I know you without gathering with you? And how can I reach out to you if I don’t know you? We are the physical presence of God in this world, so it’s important to be with one another to do His work.
- To worship God – When it comes right down to it, we are built for LOVE. We have an interior desire and pull toward God, who is Love. We often try to fill that desire with things or activities, but we always come away wanting more – that intangible something. St. Augustine said it best, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Why should we go to Church on Sunday? For very selfish reasons, to bring about our own peace and joy. God knows that. He even made it a commandment for our sake.
What are your personal reasons for attending mass? Please share them in the comments below.