Monday, May 16, 2005

MH - "I just wish they would have come to mass for Jesus, not for themselves."

So said Kathleen Kerkenhoff of St. Paul, as quoted in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this morning.

She’s referring to the Rainbow Sash wearers who showed up at the St. Paul Cathedral yesterday, and were denied Communion. It's become a national story, but living here in Minneapolis we get a local angle on it. According to the Strib, more than 150 sash-wearers “were sent away from communion empty-handed.” Sash leaders reported that at least two parishes, St. Stephen's and St. Joan of Arc, did give communion to sash wearers, which will surprise absolutely none of us here in Minnesota.

I want to come back to Ms. Kerkenhoff’s quote though, which I think hits it on the head. These sash wearers, if they were interested in receiving Jesus and not simply in making a political statement, could easily have left the sash at home (or in the pew, for that matter), received the sacrament, and returned to the pew. Whether they were properly disposed to receive or not is beside the point for what we’re talking about – if they had “come to mass for Jesus,” there’s nothing that could have prevented that. Priests aren’t mind readers.

Of course, this is something each of us should consider, applying it to our own lives. You can ask the usual questions - are we in the proper frame of mind when we attend Mass? Have we made a good confession? Are we aware of serious sin? – but ask yourself at the same time why you’re at Mass in the first place. Is it a social function where you get together with friends afterwards for brunch or coffee? Is it because you like the homily or the music? Is it because you like others to see you in church, you like the message it sends to them about how good you are? Has it simply become routine, after all these years?

One thing to remember – it’s a theme that runs through many discussions of liturgical reform – is that the focus of the Mass is not on us, not on the priest, but on Christ Himself; Christ crucified, Christ risen. Our thoughts, our prayers, our worship – all of it should be directed toward Him. As John the Baptist reminds us, “I must decrease, and He must increase.”

Hand it to John Reinan, the Strib writer who included this quote, as well as Ms. Kerkenhoff. It’s not often that one can ask an eternal question, one that applies to all times, to all circumstances, to all people, regardless of circumstances. Give it some thought before you go to Mass next Sunday, as I will, and be honest with your answer.

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