For the last twenty years I’ve kept a working cat around the house, which means I know exactly what they’re talking about in the expression, “You look like something the cat dragged in.” That something is not necessarily dead. More often it’s ragged, limping, scared, weak. The cat’s working on killing it, but hasn’t quite succeeded yet.
Sometimes I show up at Sunday Mass looking like that half-dead thing. If you’re doing it right, sooner or later you will, too.
Don’t mistake me: Please do your best to get to bed on time the night before, have your clothes neat and clean and ready to go, and get out the door promptly so you aren’t rushing into the church at the last minute. Go ahead and plan for such schedule-wreckers as “brushing everyone’s hair” or “remembering to lock the front door.” Advanced Mass-goers even write the check for the offering before the offering begins. (I know! I took me a while to figure out you could do that, too.)
But here’s the secret about the Sunday Obligation: God doesn’t want you skipping Mass just because you aren’t picture-perfect.
There’s a tension between giving our best to God on Sundays, and the divine expectation that we’ll turn out (if we are in fact able) even when we haven’t got a best to give. Why?
The Holy Eucharist is the food for our souls. There is a particular grace, supernatural life, to be received by devoting a day a week – Sunday, the day of the Resurrection – to rest and to the worship of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
How important is this weekly nourishment? So important that without it our very soul is in danger. We would never say, “Do I really have to eat today? Can’t people live for days or even weeks without food?” In the same way that our parents made sure they put something on the table, and admonished us to eat healthy foods, the Church admonishes us to get the holy nourishment we need from God.
It is so important that God tells us: Build your life around this. Don’t let this divine gift be the thing you grab in passing if you’ve got a minute to stop. Don’t let it be an afterthought.
Put as much effort into getting to Mass on Sundays as you would into any other necessity of life. I might put off grocery-shopping because I’m too sick to get to the store, but I wouldn’t let my fridge go empty for days if I could possibly do otherwise. Sure, I’d like to have a list made and even look half-decent when I turn out at the store, but if all I can do is slink in and grab the essentials, I’m going to do it.
In the same way, if you’ve made the Holy Mass the most important part of your week, there are going to be times when it’s all you can do to just show up. When it takes everything you have to drag your rear end into a pew before the opening hymn is finished. After all, there’s a line between, “I truly cannot go today,” and “Well, yes, if I work it just right I can get there.” Just over the hairy edge into “Yes I can” isn’t very pretty.
But our Lord says, “Come anyway!” You can always try again next week for the red carpet appearance; this week just turn out and pray as best you can.
Copyright 2014, Jennifer Fitz