Monday, December 31, 2007

The crying children, the music, the way people are dressed ... distractions at Mass

As we participate in the Eucharist, not only do we participate in Christ's sacrifice on Calvary but we are called to share in that sacrifice. Just knowing this should change how we view everything that irks us at Mass. Are you:
  • Suffering mental anguish -- like a crown of thorns is weighted upon your head?
  • Weighed down by worldly concerns -- like the weight of the cross is on you?
  • Feeling powerless -- like you are nailed to a cross?
If we take away a sacrificial attitude toward the Eucharist, we are likely to fail to see the connection between our lives and what we do at Mass. We are apt to sit in judgment, waiting to be entertained (whether we are conservative or liberal, what we want to see differs but the attitude is the same). When we fail to bring a sacrificial attitude to the Eucharist, our participation seems at times to be modeled more after Herod's banquet, where Simone's dance cost the Baptist his head, than after the Last Supper of Our Lord, where there was every indication that partaking in this banquet was likely to cost the disciples their own lives. (Indeed, ten of the twelve were martyred, Judas took his own life, and John survived being boiled alive in a cauldron of oil.) ...

Participation in the Eucharist requires that we die to ourselves and live in Christ. If we want to get the most out of the Eucharist, then sacrifice is the key. This is what has been lost on many of us and if we want to reclaim all the spiritual riches that are available to us we must relearn what it means not only to "offer it up" but indeed to offer ourselves up.

Now I want to be clear that what I am proposing in this book is not the "victim-ism" that was sometimes prevalent in the older spirituality of "offering it up." In every situation we are free to choose how we will respond to an event: we can blame someone else for what is happening, or we can feel powerless and do nothing. It is my contention that neither of these responses is Christ-like. The experience of "offering up" our lives to God needs to be a positive and co-redemptive act. Thankfully, with God's help we are all capable of freely choosing to respond in this fashion.
There are things that will drive anyone to distraction at Mass and new convert Will Duquette and his family are dealing with noisy children, specifically. Anyone who is annoyed at Mass would do well to go read his reflections found here, here, and here. He and his family are dealing with their distractions in a mood of charity and common sense that many of us would do well to emulate. They are providing an excellent example of a positive, co-redemptive way to offer up oneself during the Mass.

I, personally, tend to reflect upon the fact that the first Masses were held in households, especially during the times when the Church was under extreme persecution. You would have had children crying, animals wandering around, flies and fleas abounding, and many other distractions that we do not have to think about today. Keep your eye on the prize, I often remind myself. I am here to worship and meet Christ in the Eucharist and so are all these other people, whatever distractions they may offer. I dare not let myself think of the times I, unwittingly, have been a distraction to others. Because, of course, I'm perfect, right? Ha!

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