The Inconvenience of Faith
By C. Michael Hager
The question was put to us the other evening by Joe, our parish youth minister at a Life Teen core planning meeting: “Is Faith inconvenient?”
We had a fairly in depth discussion with a wide variety of opinions from the three of us, myself the oldest, Mark, one of our core members, once a teen in our program, now with a daughter in college and Joe, somewhere between us in age. I mention our ages because life perceptions tend to change with time.
At my relatively advanced age, (I have seven grandchildren), I have of late, thought differently about life, primarily because of the Corona pandemic, the disruption of our lives and most certainly, the disruption in our faith lives. We avoid crowds, we’ve cancelled our group meetings and relegated them to the tiny screens of our phones, tablets and computers. Mass has been cancelled and for a while was live streamed from our adoration chapel, but now, once again from the alter of the sanctuary.
We don’t see our friends face to face and the teens we are used to ministering to have drifted into their own disrupted routines and many have drifted away from the program all together.
Through all this, it became “convenient” to watch mass on-line, and then it became “interesting” to watch different masses. Rather than my own parish mass, it was interesting to watch Bishop Baron celebrate mass in California because the time difference made it “convenient”. I watched mass by Father Joe, a former priest from our parish, now the pastor of his own parish, and felt nostalgia for his deep voice and robust homilies.
Finally, the sanctuary was opened for live mass, but in limited numbers in separated pews and happily, we began to see some of the teens showing up for mass and it’s clear that they long to come back, to gather, to socialize, to learn, and to worship.
I received notice that the music ministry would once again be providing the music and I was called to cantor at our regular six o’clock Life Teen mass.
I didn’t want to go. It meant showing up ninety minutes early to practice the music and sing at mass. Although I had been doing this every Sunday evening since 2004, now it was simply “inconvenient.”
If I was working on a project around the house and six o’clock came and went, no problem, I can find a mass somewhere else at seven or eight, or even a re-play later on. After all, they’re all the same. The same readings, the same prayers, the same responses no matter where you are in the world so I can easily find a mass that’s “convenient” for me.
But there is that pesky work ethic I was brought up with that forces me to follow through with the things I commit to and so, I begrudgingly showered, shaved and dressed for Church and headed out to my first live mass in months.
I was mildly annoyed until the moment I stepped into the nave and like a refreshing cool breeze, the sensation of coming home washed over me. The candle was lit at the tabernacle assuring me that Christ was here in the flesh and this is where I belong. It was no longer inconvenient, but necessary.
Practice was familiar and comforting. It felt good to sing the songs and the prayers and discuss nuances with the musicians, old friends I hadn’t seen for a while. Familiar parishioners began to arrive and although mouths were hidden behind face masks, I could see the smiles in their eyes.
Then, during mass, my true “God moment” came with the Eucharist, the first Holy Communion I had received in many weeks. The pleasure, joy, peace, and love of being one with Jesus. I had no idea how much I had missed it. Our priest serves me by name; “Michael, the body of Christ!” he proclaims behind his mask, and I am overwhelmed with emotion as he lays the host in my offered hand.
I have reflected of late on my faith and how it affects my life and wellbeing. I’m well aware that I have less years ahead of me than I have behind me and I’m fine with that. Someone asked me if I am afraid of death. I have to honestly say I am not. I’m not particularly interested in dying any time soon, but I am curiously looking forward to my bodily death from a number of perspectives; What will it be like? How will it feel? And most importantly, I look forward to the next phase of the life of my soul after the life of my body.
When you book a cruise, once it is booked, you anticipate, and you look forward to the trip and you imagine how much fun it’s going to be. Then you board the ship and you’re not really sure how it’s going to go but you get familiar with the new surroundings and things just work out and you have a great time, glad to be there.
I’ve come to look at death that way. We think life on Earth is great, just wait until we see heaven! It must be orders of magnitude better than what we can possibly imagine.
I booked that trip when I joined the Catholic Church and I’m excited about the first day on THAT cruise.
What gives me that assurance that the next step will be great? Faith. It’s not convenient, it takes work, it takes commitment and it takes… Well... it takes faith!Amen