Mediocrity. It’s sweeping the nation. Silent but deadly, it creeps into our daily lives. It hampers our passion. It discourages our dreams. And, perhaps most deadly, it turns our worship into something quite… ordinary.
What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at two commons “groups” within our Church. Perhaps you’ve seen them before, or, if you’re like me, you’ve been a member of both at some point or another.
1. The blessed bored
Mass is boring. There, you said it. It’s the same thing every week, and you zone out for at least 50% of it. You want to enjoy it, you really do, but you just don’t get anything out of it. You go because your parents make you, but you spend most of the time thinking about where to go for lunch afterwards. And as soon as the priest says, “Mass has ended,” you go for that side exit faster than you can say “consubstantial.”
2. The blessed entertained
Mass is the best thing ever… that is, when Fr. Joe-Bob is the celebrant. Or when the band is playing your jams. You check the celebrant schedule to make sure you’re at Fr. Joe-Bob’s Masses, because if it’s that other guy with the over-enthusiastic Gospel-reading voice, then you will not be happy. And if the band doesn’t play any songs you recognize, then it feels like the liturgy was wasted. Hopefully next week they’ll bust out Oceans at Communion to make up for it.
It’s all about you, God… right?
We’ve all been there at some point; it’s inevitable. But what exactly is wrong with these approaches to the Mass? In both cases, you’re at Mass. You’re trying. You’re there. That has to count for something, right?
And it does. You’re physically there… but how can you expect the Mass to change your heart if you’ve checked it at the door?
When we approach Mass rolling our eyes and leave happy it’s over, we make it about ourselves. We look at it with the attitude of, “What can I get out of this?” instead of asking God, “What can I give you in this?”
And when we approach Mass excited, but only for that certain homilist, or that rockin’ band, then we’re missing the point. We’re looking to be entertained, as if we’re going to a concert. That tells God “we’re here because we’re having fun,” not “we’re here to worship you.” We put a condition on our love for the Lord, even though His love for us has no such requirements.
I think young Catholics are pushed to one of these two extremes as we attempt to find our footing in the Church. We’re either not focused on enough or focused on too much.
In the former, the adult Church often shrugs us aside, perhaps unintentionally. We have little to get involved in and no one to walk with us. Instead, we are left to find our own way in the Church. No wonder it doesn’t feel like home.
In the latter, the Church is “sold” to us like some product. The depth is watered down, and the liturgy becomes more like a Hollywood production than a celebration of the Eucharist. Yes, Christ is at the heart of it, but it’s as if all that makes us uniquely Catholic has been exchanged for aesthetic appeal, just to get us in the door.
But we know this isn’t enough. Our hearts long for God—authentic and unaltered. We can get bored at school or at a concert any given Saturday night. Mass is so much more than that, and somewhere in our hearts, we’re searching for the real deal.
George Weigel, in Letters to a Young Catholic (fantastic read—find it!), offers his opinion on the matter:
“Lots of young Catholics complain that they’re bored at Mass. I don’t blame them. When priests and people forget what’s really going on here—when the Mass is another form of entertainment, or therapy, or therapeutic entertainment—the Mass is not what it’s meant to be—and we’re not what we were meant to be…
“We don’t worship God because it makes us feel good, or relieved, or entertained. We worship God because God is to be worshipped—and in giving God the worship that is his due, we satisfy one of the deepest longings of the human spirit.”
We shouldn’t be showing up to Church on Sundays to make our parents happy, or to hear that one priest preach, or to hear the live version of your local Christian radio station. We shouldn’t show up to be entertained, or even to feel good.
I’ve tried all of these approaches. Trust me, it doesn’t make worship feel better, not for the person worshipping, and surely not for God.
What happens when the lights are gone? What happens when you move out of your parents’ home? What happens when going to Mass doesn’t make you feel any better?
The only thing that will lead you to a fulfilling worship is to stop asking for fulfillment. We worship because Christ deserves to be worshipped, not because we want something out of it.
“Do this in memory of me,” is a commandment. It is the reason we have gathered together on the Lord’s Day for thousands of years. We’re there to remember the first of such gatherings. We’re there to remember the first Celebration of the Eucharist, and to partake in it firsthand as a united Church.
Christ’s commandment was uttered as He took the bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my Body.” The “this” that we are commanded to do is the Eucharist, plain and simple.
That is the reason we show up. That is the reason we sit through the Mass—to be with Christ in the Eucharist, to celebrate His sacrifice, and to remember Him.
And the funny thing is, the more we realize that the Mass is all about Him, and not us, the less it feels like something to “sit through” or “endure.” Instead, we see the Mass for what it is: a love story.
There, in the Body of Christ, we see a God who loves us, a God who became like us, and who eagerly pursues us amid our wandering. We see a Lover so determined to rescue us that He would enter into our deepest darkness if it meant He could take our place. In the tabernacle, we see the embodiment of Christ’s last words to His disciples: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
“There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us” (St. Jean Vianney).
Nothing could ever come close to the beauty of Christ in the Eucharist. Nothing.
A Catholic church is home, not because of the celebrant, not because of the aesthetic appeal, not because of the songs we hear, but because Jesus awaits us in the tabernacle. That is why we’re there.
Whether we enter a glorious Cathedral or a dirt-floor chapel, anywhere in the world with a tabernacle is home. Anywhere with the Body of Christ is a heavenly dwelling place, a face-to-face encounter with our love.
My Church, our faith is something extraordinary. Let us never make it ordinary; we have enough of that everywhere else we turn.