A few years ago, I met a young man my age who was a recovering alcoholic. I met him at my parents home parish a one weekend at the 11 o'clock mass. He would hang around and attend the young adult meetings after mass and would help with other parish faith formation events and classes. It happened that he came over to my parent's house after one such mass for brunch on a summer afternoon and he asked me if I like to play chess. I responded that I did, but no promises on how good the competition would be for him. I had no doubt that he would beat me, but I thought I could at least put up a good fight.
Three games took us about 7 or 8 minutes. I had no idea what his strategy was or how he was limiting my moves the way he was, but it was really an incredible experience to lose so quickly. After those three games, my new friend asked if he could give me some advice, to which I graciously accepted. He said, "Remember that the King is your objective. Every play should get you closer to putting your opponents king in check." I of course had known that this was the objective of the game, but looking back on my so called "strategy" it was clear that I was not acting on this simple premise. My friend explained to me that it seemed that I was worried more about getting rid of all of his pieces when I really only had to get one, the king.
Now, whenever I play chess, I try to always keep that at the forefront of my mind and strategy. I will not claim to be a better chess player, but now I do know why I have lost when the game is all done.
Why do I share this story? I think it has incredible meaning for us when we apply it to our faith. I find that I notice myself and others in the church community very often forgetting the objective of our faith and belief. The problem is not necessarily that we do not know the objective, it is that the objective does not effect how we live and move in the day-to-day of our lives.
I would argue that the objective is to know, love and serve God with all our heart, soul and mind. The way we do this is by coming to know Jesus Christ through His Church and its sacraments and by speaking to Him personally in prayer. The purpose for all of this is to eventually become one with God in heaven, and bring as many as possible along with us.
I can say that this is the objective as much as I want, but if I do not live on these principles then it is all for naught. This is the same reason (one of them at least) why it is so difficult for me to see the scandal and cover up going on in our diocese. We see that the people responsible know (and knew) how they ought to be and they for one reason or another are choosing to ignore or act against the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church.
The problem remains however, that as long as I am not doing my very best to approach the sacramental life of the Church and spend time with Our Lord in prayer, then I am living that same hypocrisy. It is an internal struggle.
One of the tough things though when we come to love our Church and the church community that we are part of, is that we can drift from this focus. There are many good opportunities, activities and events in our parish and Church as a whole, but are those things flowing from the very life of the Church and its head Jesus Christ? I believe that if every event and social had a purpose of bringing people into the sacramental life of the Church and/or to come into an encounter with Jesus Christ we would have a full church at every weekend mass.
I am not condemning events and fundraisers. I myself partake in these things. But I am asking you as the parish community, the Body of Christ to call your church to a higher standard. If we cannot find a fit for something into the greater mission of our parish, then it might be time to trim that from the parish offerings.
I think I sometimes forget that the main function of our church is to offer MASS ON SUNDAY!!
I get so caught up in planning the next thing that I forget about why I am here in the first place. I am here to be perfected by Jesus Christ through the reception of the eucharist, the sacraments, and through personal prayer.
I am here to become a saint and invite you all along with me.
We must not remove our eyes from the King. He is our focus. If you are looking for a way to make our parish better, more welcoming, more exciting and more alive you need only do two things. Give more in the weekly collection and give up football games....Wait that's not it...
Approach the sacrifice of the mass with reverence on Sunday, and begin to spend time with Jesus Christ in prayer and in the Word (Read the Bible) EVERY DAY.
I know it can be daunting. It is the most difficult thing for me every day. Setting aside time and recognizing the season of life that I am in is near impossible. But with God's help we can all do it. Preferably get to the adoration chapel. We can all visit out Lord in the Eucharist at least once a week(outside of mass). You will not regret it. You can only benefit from spending your precious time with the Lord.
In a world and Church where there are so many other things to focus on, keep your eyes on the King people of God. Do not waver in knowing with whom your allegiance is. Get to know our God in personal prayer and in a regular reading of Scripture. Our church is those two simple steps away from setting the world on fire.
"And oh how I wish it were already ablaze!" -Jesus Christ, Luke 12:49
I hope to see you around the parish!
Director of Youth Minisrty
716-649-3090 ext. 120
@antiochlifeteen (instagram / twitter)