There, I said it. It’s not popular. Not in today’s world. And that’s the entire point.
I have been increasingly bothered by the way Christians in general treat this sacred time of Advent and Christmas. And in no way is that more evident, then how they treat worship, doctrine, dogma and community.
Last year, Kirk Cameron came out with this revolutionary idea of people attending church at Christmas. I, and I’m sure several other Catholics, got a little chuckle or even gave a side-long glance. We’ve been doing it all along. Instead of screaming at people who wish us a “Happy Holiday,” Catholics are required to keep Christ in Christmas by attending mass as a Holy Day of Obligation.
But to a trendy, hipster Christian, that “o” word, obligation, or the other one, obedience…man, that’s not hip, it’s not cool. Church on Christmas, that should be a choice, man. You’re family might have mentioned it’s Jesus’ birthday, that’s enough. That’s all you need…
Is it? Is it really? What if you forget? What if you have to get dressed and showered and leave your home and sit worship in communion with others? I mean, is it really so terrible?
I was countered by a Protestant friend on facebook that, “It’s not even a Church day!” This is of course in respect to the Third Commandment:
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
But I’ve recently heard that argument countered by the argument, “Well, isn’t every day the Lord’s Day?” Indeed it is. And it’s why the Catholic Church worldwide celebrates the sacrifice of the mass every day of the year except Good Friday (that explanation will have to wait for another time). And a few centuries ago, Catholics did begin every morning with mass. It’s where we get the term , “breakfast” from. It was the meal eaten after mass to “break the fast” prior to receiving the Body and Precious Blood of Christ.
Catholics are not required to attend daily mass, we’re only required to attend Sunday mass and those pesky Holy Days. All six of them. And some years one or more might happen on a Sunday, a two-for-one.
But it’s not cool to have obligations someone else sets for you…right? I’ve seen a disturbing trend in many local non-denom churches to occasionally cancel even Sunday services. Some even “take the holidays off.” From worship, praise, thanksgiving. From Jesus. And judging from friends’ posts in other parts of the country, this isn’t simply a local issue. But it’s cool because who doesn’t like to sleep in on a Sunday morning…am I right?
It’s comfortable to not think of your “personal relationship” with Jesus as an obligation or even a true relationship. I mean, we want Jesus to help us and give us stuff but what do we give Him in return?
When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he brings Peter, James and John and asks them to pray. He is devastated to come back and find them asleep. We all know His response:
“So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”–Matthew 26: 40-41
When I think of Holy Days or even Sundays, that first part of the response. Why are we fighting an insanely short amount of time? Why? Catholic or otherwise…what is more important than Jesus Christ. Can we not give Him who loves us so much He gave His only Son this little bit of time? Do we not call on Him “after hours” at 3 AM but we want to “take the holidays off?” Exactly what kind of relationship is this? It’s an abusive one and we are the abusers.
But even more striking is the second part of Jesus’ response to finding Peter and the sons of Zebedee asleep. When I consider the reasons people give for not attending mass or services at their church, I am baffled. Is it really a test for you to not sleep in? To not go to the beach? To arrive late to a birthday party? If that’s the case, I also encourage you to pray that you may not ever have to undergo a real test of your faith because the willing spirit will certainly be betrayed by the flesh.
But I think there are a couple of reasons people don’t show up for church that need to be addressed and called out for what they are.
The first reason is that they don’t like people. And by people that usually means the pastor or the fellow congregants. I’m an introvert. The Sign of Peace makes my skin crawl. And I’ve had my share of strange priests and music. But guess what, it’s not about the priest or the music all the time. It’s not about the crying babies at that one mass or the teens at another. It’s not about that Extraordinary minister of the Eucharist who gives you the stink eye because you wear pants. It’s about the Lamb of God and the Body of Christ. To put it bluntly:
So, on vacation, or missed mass at your parish, if you’re Catholic, there’s no excuse. And you aren’t there for social hour, you’re there for Him. And He welcomes everyone.
I think the reason for not going to church regularly across Christianity that gets my goat the most, is that it’s not interesting. And this goes back to the “cool” factor. Are you kidding me? Are we so entitled that we need to be constantly stimulated visually? That we need a certain type of music to “feel the praise?” I hear this from people who attend mega-churches all the time. “I just couldn’t go to mass anymore because it’s just so boring. It’s the same thing every week (clearly, honey, you are not paying attention to the readings or the homily) and the music isn’t lively enough.” When I think of these comments and my blood really starts to boil I think of the face of Jesus on the Crucifix and can’t help but think:
Jesus died that you might live and have eternal life. And that should be reason enough to stick your butt in a pew. Every.single.week. And on Holy Days. You are not a two-year-old even if texting and the web have given you the the attention span of one. If you need mass or services to be entertaining, welcome to the idol worship of self.
I realize I’m fighting an uphill battle here. I totally get that. Secularism, relativism and all kinds of BS have infiltrated people’s ideas of Christianity and made it seem like just saying you believe is enough. Or just being a nice person checks all the right boxes. You actually need to not be concerned with how awesome your church is and be able to obey and follow Christ and His commandments (which fyi: includes the Ten Commandments see:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:17-20).
So while I may not completely see eye to eye with Matt Walsh on a whole lot, if you’re feeling like Christianity is comfortable and easy, run like hell away from the place leading you to believe that.