Praised be Jesus Christ! “Keeping holy the Sabbath” ends the first part of the Decalogue, namely the part that instructs us as to how we are to relate to God. For many of us, we think of God as ra- ther unapproachable and intimidating – a bit like the Wizard of Oz, who constantly used fear to motivate anyone audacious enough to approach him. In the fullness of time Jesus came to heal this primordial distrust of God, which began with the first sin and Adam and Eve’s subsequent shame and recourse to hiding from God. To this day, our sins confuse us about God and we tend to run from Him so that He won’t expose us for the phonies that we feel we have become. However, the Jesus we see over and over again in the Gospels seems keenly interested, not so much in our sins, but in our willingness to open our hearts to Him. Remembering Jesus’ words that “healthy people do not need a doctor, but the sick do,” our life slowly but surely exposes the areas of our hearts that for whatever reason need a divine physi- cian. Keeping the Sabbath holy is a commandment because we wither and die spiritually without the healing and rest God alone can give. The night before He died, Jesus implored us to “do this in remembrance of me” and thanks to the Holy Spirit and the sacrament of Holy Orders, we can honor His dying wish by as- sisting at Mass every Sunday. What keeps people away from Mass? Among other things, the shame and guilt that we’re just too sinful for God and that we’d be unwelcome at Mass and judged by others if we did come. Sometimes there is the pride that blinds us to our struggles – we feel that we’re fine without God and don’t really see the urgency of going to Mass. There are other reasons too: we are busy, we need that time to sleep, the priest is boring, the music insipid, and the experience unfulfilling and meaningless. Maybe we could learn to love the Mass and Jesus more this Lent so as to win grace for those who have not yet experienced the glory of the Mass. By the way, when people leave the Catholic Church for another religion they often claim that their new way of worshipping feeds them so much more than Mass ever did. It is for this reason that we have to do a better job of explaining the meaning and beauty of the Eucharist, because no other religion in the world has the capacity to bring Jesus to us in this real yet sublime way. Moving now into the second part of the Decalogue, there are seven commandments that regulate our relationships with our fellow man. “Honor your father and your mother,” – for many people, this can be a great challenge. As Oscar Wilde put it a century ago, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; some- times they forgive them.” Our parents opened their hearts to God’s will and thus we were born. For many of us, our parents made heroic sacrifices so that we could grow up knowing we were loved and secure. Just the same, as Father Flanagan of Boys’ Town fame once put it, “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” None of us had a perfect upbringing, but some of us really suffered from abusive situations. Jesus’ Father is perfect and He loves the brokenhearted most of all – Jesus wants us to trust His Father so He shares Him with us by teaching us to call God “Our Father.”
May the Father’s tender love heal us and help us to know His Son’s Real Presence in each and every Mass!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin