Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The longest journey is not one of a million steps but one of twelve inches.

During the ordination of a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church the Bishop passes along the Book of the Gospels to the newly ordained with the following words:

                Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose Herald you have become.

                Believe what you read.

                Teach what you believe.

                And practice what you teach.

It is a reminder to all of us that we are also called to believe, live, and pass on our faith in Christ. There are two types of belief. There is intellectual belief where you know something in your mind. Then there is an intimate belief where you know something in your heart. For example; when I had my heart surgery I knew that there was a chance that I would not live through it. I also knew that if I didn’t I would be with God and that he would care for my family. I truly believed this and trusted in God. If surviving the surgery was the worst outcome how could I be afraid? This gave me a great deal of peace going into the surgery. If I only believed this in my head I would have been filled with anxiety and worry.

This is known as making the twelve inch drop – dropping belief from your head to your heart.

Every day people leave the Catholic faith for another denomination church, or they walk away from God altogether. The “nones” is one of the largest growing demographics in the world. The reasons given for this are vast and varied and usually revolve around a selfish reason.

                I don’t like the music.” “I am not a fan of the priest.” “The sermons are boring.” “I didn’t feel welcomed.”

The ones that bother me most are, “I don’t get anything out of it.” Or, “I wasn’t being spiritually fed.”

As part of our Sunday Mass we stand together and make a profession of our faith by reciting the Nicene Creed which begins:

                I believe in one God,

                the Father almighty,

                maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible.

The Catholic Mass is much more than a simple worship service. It is more than the music, more than the scripture reading. It is more than the Gospel, the homily, the fellowship, or even the reception of the holy Eucharist. These are all visible parts of the Mass. But the Mass is so much more than just the visible.

Some Protestants criticize the Catholic Church because they have the false belief that we “re-sacrifice” Christ and that Jesus was sacrificed once for all. The Catholic Church uses the verbiage that she “re-presents” the sacrifice on Calvary. I find it more accurate to say that the Church “makes present” the one sacrifice to the people today. We are creatures that live in the visible world. Most of us have neither the thought nor care for the invisible reality happening around us. Our intellectual belief knows that we are surrounded by the spiritual, angels, demons, and God but rarely do we embrace this with intimate belief.

What the Catholic Mass does is act as a conduit between space and time. Our time, our reality is joined with all times at the one and only sacrifice Jesus made for all. In our visible reality we see the priest elevating the host at consecration. In the invisible reality, in that very spot stands the cross and our Lord hanging upon it. As we look upon the visible priest we are actually looking upon the invisible Jesus made present to us.

In our visible reality we are surrounded by our fellow parishioners. In the invisible reality we stand before the cross with all of the angels and heavenly host, all of the Saints in heaven, and every believer who lives, has ever lived, and will ever live throughout time. We stand with billions upon billions of God’s creation all worshiping at the one sacrifice of our Lord. Do you miss a person who has passed? When you attend a Catholic Mass you stand with that person at the foot of the cross.

In our visible reality we respond to the consecration with an often groggy or half-hearted “Amen.” In the invisible reality we are joined to the resounding “Amen” offered up by billions upon billions of voices at the same time. To open your heart to this reality will shake you to your core and you will never see Mass in the same light ever again. The greatest event that will ever happen to creation is made present to us each and every time we attend a Catholic Mass anywhere in the world.

In ministry we are often trying to get people to make that twelve inch drop from the intellectual knowledge in the head to the intimate knowledge in the heart. With regards to the reality of the Mass this needs to be a rise of twelve inches. We must believe in our hearts what is happening around us even though we cannot see it and allow that to rise to our heads and become intellectual knowledge. I see because I believe.

I am Catholic today largely in part to the complete reality the Mass offers. No other church can offer this reality. When a Catholic walks away from the faith because they do not feel that they are getting anything out of Mass they never really believed, intellectually or intimately, anything the professed to begin with.

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