Friday, June 1, 2012

Do This in Memory of Me (or You Might Forget Me)

There are certain things that I will never forget . . . until I forget them.  The other day I was talking to one of our seminarians and he mentioned how several years ago he was struck by a story I had mentioned at Mass.  The previous week, a man brought his mother to Mass in her wheelchair.  She was well over one hundred years old and occasionally was able to make it to Mass.  It may have even been her birthday on that day.  The congregation clapped for her.  That afternoon, having received the Eucharist at Mass that morning, the woman died peacefully.  I mentioned at the time how beautiful it was that this woman was able to receive the Eucharist on the day that she died.  I really thought that I'd never forget that story.  But, unless the seminarian had mentioned it to me the other day, I think it would have passed beyond the veil of my memory.

We forget things.  We even forget the things that we swear we will never forget.  It is one thing to forget an appointment, a story from the past, or even an important date.  But we can also forget the most important of things.  We Christians run the risk of forgetting God.  A day can go by and we do not think of him or perhaps we only do so vaguely.  Even the death and resurrection of the Lord--the defining moments of salvation history--can become vague memories.  We can allow these events to become similar to Washington's crossing of the Delaware.  Yes, if somebody brings it up, we remember it, but we don't spend a whole lot of time actively recalling it. 

I live in Boston, so there are always places where one can see a little bit of history.  If you want to see where the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, or the Battle of Bunker Hill took place, you can visit those sites.  Even though those sites may make one feel closer to the actual events, we know that those events and us are separated by time.  We are simply people looking back and thinking about what happened.

God, however, in his merciful love for us does not want us to forget his love or for us to be separated from the definitive act of his love by the passing of time.  And, Christians who know their capacity to be forgetful of God want to do everything possible to be saved from such forgetfulness.  God's desire for us to remember Him and our desire for more immediate contact with the Death and Resurrection of the Lord meet in the Mass.  It is in the daily Mass that we are reminded of God's love.  And this reminder is not simply a "post it" note.  This reminder is not a visit to a place that reminds us of a long ago event.  This reminder places us at that event.  In the Mass, we are present in the very midst and act of Calvary. 

As a pastor, I encourage people to attend daily Mass.  In those 30 minutes each day, we are caught up in the very love of God.  In a mere 30 minutes, our whole life is put into proper perspective.  "God loves us.  God gives His Son to us.  We receive God.  Our life is a great pilgrimage in God's love and is directed towards perfect union with God.  Now it is time to live the rest of the day in light of this."  This daily reminder (which is not just a reminder but a true participation) saves us.  It saves us from the horrific possibility of living today as though God did not exist. 

Sometimes people think that those who go to daily Mass do so in order to be "super Catholics."  But, my experience is that the vast majority of people who attend daily Mass do so because they hunger and desire to hear God renew once again in their souls His great and awesome, "I love you."

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