Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mart Hart: Straight to The Heart! By : C.C.

It is time to fill the pews, and not just at Christmas!
I have been fortunate enough to come across the book entitled "Blessed are the bored in spirit" written by Mark Hart. From the moment I opened the front page, I was unable to put it down. Mark shares many wonderful things within this book that each of us can benefit from. However, one part in particular caught my attention, and it is the chapter he dedicated to explaining the Catholic mass. Hart shares the importance, and the ways in which one can find deeper meaning in their attendance at Mass. I feel that it is an appropriate message to share this time of year. I say this because the reality is that many people have fallen away from taking the time amidst their schedules to attend Mass and participate in the celebration of the Blessed Eucharist. Yet, during the holiday season parish parking lots and pews are filled with people. I bring this issue up not to cause offense but in order to bring awareness, comfort, and maybe even some motivation towards getting back to Church on a more regular basis. There seems to be a part of everyone that recognizes the need to honor our Lord during the holiday season, but we must remember that He is present in our lives every day. We must truly come to recognize our Church as a place where healing can happen, and not a place that judges or claims to be without blemish. Let us remember that “A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” (Abigail Van Buren) We come to Church to be filled and to become more like the Saints. It is rather disturbing to see that one negative encounter with a person of faith who attends "Church" can be swayed away from attending weekly/daily mass. Let us not look to one another to determine our motives for attending church, but rather, be motivated by the desire to establish a better relationship with our Lord. The need to have a strong Catholic community in Christ. There are potentially many reasons why one may fall away from attending Mass, but it is never too late to return and experience It's beauty. For those of us who actively attend Mass we must recognize our responsibility of demonstrating our faith in every aspect of our lives. We are called to not only participate in the Mass but to truly acknowledge the depth and wonderful mystery presented to us through the Blessed Eucharist. We are expected to pray from our hearts and not let our prayers become mundane and solely rhythmical during the Mass. Though perfection is unattainable we must strive to become the most perfect version of ourselves while we are here on Earth. It is not enough to simply fill a pew, but it is definitely a step toward creating a deeper relationship with the Lord.
I find it rather fitting that this year's Christmas celebration falls on a Sunday (The Sabbath), a day which sadly seems to be just another working day and not a day for God and rest. Mark Hart does a wonderful job in explaining the importance of the Sabbath day, and how it has been lost amidst our schedules....I have decided to share it below.
" Sunday has become, not a day of rest, reflection and relaxation, but another day of hard work. It is not a day that we relish but a day that we catch up. Cutting the grass instead of cutting out distractions, laundering our clothes instead of laundering out souls, working on ignored homework rather than ignoring work and enjoying our homes. "Honoring the Sabbath" has become a sixteen-hour waking period into which we cram as much stuff as humanly possible in order not to have to do it on top of our incredibly busy weekday schedules. Sunday has less to do with the Son and more to do with the day. You know how busy you are. Write out a list of all the things you do on the average Sunday. How many of them draw you closer to God? How much more could your activities turn you toward God? God established this day of Sabbath rest not because He needs it-He's God, and He's tireless- but because we need it. It is the Sabbath that invites us to the family dinner, beckoning us back to the dining room table, calling us in from the fields of work and helping us to love and enjoy one another's presence. At Mass we become members of the family again; that is how we "re-member" him, as we were encouraged and commanded to do in that Upper Room so many centuries ago. Unfortunately, we miss the point. Often, we do not see the Mass as a family get together of the body of Christ. Uninterested worshipers become spectators. The modern liturgy is not as much experienced as it is observed. We are like a family that no longer sits around the dinner table sharing reality but instead sits behind TV trays watching "reality". It's simpler that way, less dangerous. It is disheartening to realize that the word obligation-as in, it is our obligation to go to Mass-has taken on such a negative connotation. But the truth is, when it comes to Sunday or a holy day of obligation; many of God's children would choose to be anywhere but church. Some of us live not as Roman Catholics but "roamin' Catholics" searching for the quickest Mass, the least challenging homily or the lowest expectation of actual participation. But, if we would enter into Mass as children coming to the Father's dinner table, we would be enlightened by His Word and fed by His Body and Blood." (Mark Hart: Blessed are the bored in spirit. pg 40-42)
How wonderful that our Christmas celebration falls on "The Sabbath" this year. Let us look to recreate the importance and significance of this day to our faith, and our lives. As we come to the table to be fed let us draw nearer to the Mass experience. Lord I pray today that each of us come to Your table this holiday season with a longing to become more united with You. I pray for the building of a stronger Catholic family amidst our parish communities. Lord give us patience in the parking lots and crowded pews surrounding us this holiday season. Help us to recognize our roles as Catholic brothers and sisters. May we be stewards of faith and always reflect Your light during Mass and into our days. Lord let us leave Your table on Christmas day and carry out the Sabbath day as You intended. May our time with family and friends reflect our love for You. Amen. (C.C)

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