Before our current parish, we belonged to a small, traditional, country parish. The priest was very devote and devoted, and known for well developed, lengthy, serious homilies. His homilies contained a good deal of catechism but we’re sprinkled with stories to drive the point home. Decades later, there are stories that my husband and I still repeat and reference.
One, particularly amusing story went like this. (Imagine if you will the following delivered in a strong Polish accent.) There was a man who went to church every Sunday, and then one Sunday he didn’t come. After three Sundays, his priest was concerned and decided to pay him a visit. The man lived in a big house on the hill over looking the village. It was dark, cold, and windy when the priest walked up to the house. He knocked on the door and the man opened it and welcomed the priest into his living room where there was a large, warm fire blazing. The man sat down in his armchair and started talking, “I know why you are here, Father. I just don’t see why I need to go to Mass. Sunday is a day of rest, I say my prayers, I read my bible, why do I need to walk all the way to church to worship God?”
The priest said nothing, he turned and picked up the fireplace tongs and took a bright ember from the fire and placed it on the hearth. The ember glowed bright and seemed to grow in size, then it swiftly faded to grey and was just cold ash. The priest, then picked up his hat and coat and began to leave. As the man showed him out, he said, ” Thank you for the firery sermon, Father. I will see you on Sunday.”
The priest simply smiled and walked back to the Church.
The point is, without a community, worship begins to die out. You may begin all afire but just as swiftly begin to cool. Jesus promised that where two or more are gathered in his name, there He also will be. He realized that we needed support and each other to stay the course and attain deeper worship. Our present parish has a church “motto” if you will, the begins with the phrase, “a community of believers.”
That is our aim, to not be solely a collection of church attendees but a community, a family. Apart from fellow believers, it is difficult to maintain focus on the narrow path, to keep going when the going is tough. It is not to say that we go to church for the people, but we go for the collective worship. We each have a part in the worship, no matter what our role in the Church, if any, is. Our collective prayers are joined to those of the angels to form the highest of all prayers, the Mass. Even if we were unable to have the Eucharist present, Jesus would be there because we are gathered in His name.
However, we tread a fine line in building community and losing our sacred purpose. While we are a family, our primary purpose of attending Mass is giving glory to God and receiving grace from the Eucharistic sacrament. Our sight is to be on the LORD, not each other. It is a joy to have such dear friends through our parish, but social circles are not the aim of Sunday obligation. Our first obligation is to God. We must remember this and strive to point others toward God that together we may grow in faith. So please, remember that Church is God’s house, come and leave quietly and reverently. Dress in a way befitting of meeting the King of Kings intimately in the sacrifice of the Mass, so as not to draw attention away from our heavenward advance. Seek to not just get at the Mass but to give your whole self to Him who has given you all, not even sparing His only Son.
Let us be a community of believers striving evermore for holiness and grace. In little ways, with great love, we can revitalize our churches, but it is not found in greater comfort or ease nor more socialization. It is found in a deeper, collective purpose to worship and exalt He who is above all, the Great I AM, our beginning and end. For why did God make us? God made us to know, love and serve Him, to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in Heaven. (Baltimore Catechism) Let us show forth His goodness to every member of our worshiping community by coming together for the sole purpose of lifting high the cross and bowing down to our Loving Savior who from all good things come. God bless you!