The week after Easter I met with some of my work colleagues to record a video for children who are preparing for the sacraments. As we wished each other a happy Easter, I mentioned this Easter had been different.
Normally I feel like I am part of the story. From welcoming Jesus in Jerusalem, to sitting with him around the table, seeing him in agony in the garden, to the cross, into the tomb and finally the resurrection. Somehow I did not make it beyond the tomb. To my astonishment the priest shared his own struggles. We just did not “feel it”. Trying to make sense of it, we left on a light note by saying “Pentecost better be good”.
A few weeks later Pentecost happened and – nothing. The churches reopened and I am one of those, who has not returned yet. Please do not judge me on this. My struggles are real and I am typing this with a pain in my chest. Sundays used to be sacred in our house. No questions asked, it is Sunday and on Sundays we go to the Church.
My oldest daughter pointed that out to me: “Mum today is Sunday – did you get tickets? Will we go to Mass?”
I did not want to admit that I did not even bother getting tickets, I asked her what she would like to do – she was delighted to be asked and was happy to give it a miss. It was convenient anyway because, as another excuse, my son started GAA on Sundays.
All I have are excuses to not go. I have been praying about this and have definitely been arguing with God. I am still a good person, I am still praying, I am still doing my best to see Jesus in the other person. I am still helpful.
The pandemic has changed everyone and everything. Including me. Mass used to give me the opportunities to acknowledge shortcomings during the past week, to hear more about Jesus and what is scripture “telling me”, praying for my brothers and sisters in need, breaking the bread to do this in memory of him and finally – as you leave the church, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”.
I have been struggling with comments made by people who reduce Mass to the body of Christ. Personally I think the pandemic has shown how many of us struggle to understand the Eucharist. Many shepherds missed an opportunity to evangelise, to catechise. Personally, I found the spiritual communion prayer very unhelpful. It raised more questions than gave me comfort. At the beginning of the pandemic I tried to ‘shop’ around to find a Mass that was engaging and uplifting, after a few weeks I just gave up. Another confession I have to make is that I never stayed beyond the prayers of the faithful. Spiritual communion – I just could not connect with it. I did not feel it.
But where does that leave me? I know deep down I want to go back. I know it is important, but somehow I can’t seem to get going.
Twenty years ago in college, over and over we (pastoral people) were told to go where the people are at. Go where they are not where you (the parish team) want them to be. Next Sunday, I probably will be at the GAA pitch with many other parents or at the playground in the park. During the week many parents park at the church ground – have you ever said hello? If the Church is interested in the younger generation they have to go to these places – where they are and indeed I am! Building relationship, creating points of contacts. In the meantime, I trust that God will help me to roll away my stone. I trust that the Holy Spirit will set me on fire again, till then, I turn to Scripture: “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)