I work night shift. I go to work at 7:00 p.m. and clock out at 7:30 a.m., three nights a week. Sometimes my shift falls on a Saturday, which means I end up going to Mass after I’ve been up all night. Often, I will find an early Mass at a parish near where I am working or on the way home, and go by myself. If my family is going to the 9:00 a.m. Mass I usually go with them after I get home.
In either case, I am obviously crazy-tired. I’m grateful for the parts of the Mass that call for sitting, and my body protests standing and kneeling. I have trouble not falling asleep during the homily. I tend to forget the Scripture readings as soon as I hear them. If the music ministry is having a tame day, their contribution can end up being positively soporific.
And yet, I still go, every Sunday. You might wonder why I bother, and what I’m getting out of it. I can sum up my reason in one simple word: obedience.
Our relationship with God is not one of equals. God issues commands, and we are to obey. In the Ten Commandments, God required humanity to “keep holy the Sabbath day.” We were expected to set aside one day out of seven to honor God, thank Him, and remind ourselves of our connection with Him. The Church founded by the Son of God, and in whom He vested earthly authority, has decreed that the bare minimum expectation for Christians is to attend Sunday Mass every week. The observance of the Jewish Sabbath was replaced, upon the Resurrection, with a weekly feast day dedicated to Jesus’ victory over death and sin. It is, in fact, a mortal sin to miss Sunday Mass without a valid, serious reason. While the Church has provided guidance as to what these look like, she has not given us a definitive list. Respecting our free will and the primacy of conscience, she allows us to determine for ourselves if our reason is good enough. I feel obligated to warn everyone, though, that there is no guarantee against our being wrong.
I know I can handle going to Mass, so I don’t have a good reason to miss it. No matter how tired I am, I can receive the graces of communing in a literal, physical way with Jesus. Whether I doze off during the homily or remember all the readings or not, I can take into myself the life promised to me by my Savior, to give me strength for the journey of the next week. I don’t pretend this is ideal. Going through the motions should never be more than a temporary state of affairs, in any part of life. But, much like in a long term marriage, there will be times when we just aren’t able to muster excitement, joy, and reverence like we should. We seem to understand that marriage has dry spells and that just pushing ourselves along for a while is okay, at the same time realizing that we should do what we can to improve it and that it will usually get better at some point. And yet, so many people seem to fold at the slightest challenge in their spiritual life.
How many times have we heard, “Mass is boring,” or, “I don’t get anything out of it?” If you receive Eucharist, not only have you gotten something out of it, you have gotten the greatest gift ever bestowed on humanity! If you cannot receive that week for whatever reason, you still are able to benefit from the grace of spiritual communion and joining with the community to worship. And frankly, I don’t know about you, but I find way too often for it to be chance that the cyclical Scripture readings of the Mass line up in timely fashion with when I need to hear them. The funny thing about our seemingly distant, mysterious God is that He can be so dang obvious sometimes. But you’ll never know if you’re not there to hear, see, smell, taste, and touch what He has to offer you.
About Jennifer Moeller
I’m a Catholic revert who loves her faith, mother to five children from a college freshman to a third grader, wife to an amazing Catholic man for 18 years and counting, and a hospice CNA working on her second (and last, praise God!) semester of LPN school.