Created in His Image: We Are Called to Worship at Mass Together.
Over the past year, many churches have stopped meeting in person or have restricted the number of worshipers allowed to gather for any one service. St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish has been limited in the number of people allowed to gather for Mass since June 2020. Before that, we were not allowed to gather at all for a period of three months. A global pandemic, government regulations, and a desire to serve each other and society have kept us from gathering. Instead, we’ve held Mass online, met “virtually,” and used technology to connect.
Many churches have done their best to continue celebrating Mass and provide some degree of in person services. Because of this, a small percentage of parishioners have been able to participate in person and have made the best of navigating the Covid -19 restrictions. During this time, our sensitivities have been heightened, our differences of opinion have been on display, and we have had to endure restrictions and protocols that are awkward, inconvenient, and frustrating. Then, no matter how safe we make it, some of our church family still can’t come.
With all this in mind, some members of the faith community may feel tempted not to come at all. The question many ask is if our current gatherings are so different and restricted, our online options so available and convenient, and our physical presence a genuine vulnerability, why should we even meet in person?
This is the question. But as members of the Body of Christ we should not let virtual and electronic activities ever be accepted as an equal alternative to meeting and gathering in person. We need to reflect on the importance of our gatherings so that our desire to meet together in person grows instead of withers on the vine. When we come together as the Body of Christ we are able to know, love and serve our God in a genuine, fully committed way that gives witness to our Eucharistic experience of sacrifice and thanksgiving.
As human beings we are created by God to be in relationship with each other. We need in person face to face human interaction. Our children need interaction with others and the opportunity to see their friends. We are more than just pixels, 0’s and 1’s, screennames and headshots on Zoom and Skype. We are human beings. We are made to see and hear and taste and touch and navigate our way through the physical world God has made. In recent months, we have seen the ability and usefulness of our online world. But we have also felt its limitations. No one in love with another happily accepts a long-distance relationship as ideal. Neither should a loving faith community. Our technology has made it possible for one to never have to leave their house. It might help us feel safe by avoiding getting sick from Covid-19, but it most assuredly guarantees us the loss of part of our humanity.
The Bible consistently teaches that the church is Christ’s body on earth (Eph. 1:22–23). Each believer is a different body part, but we’re intricately knitted together (Eph. 4:15–16). Our spiritual gifts are like eyes and ears and hands and feet that each play their part in the body’s growth and mission. Yes, even at a distance, we are still Christ’s body. But like any healthy body, we shouldn’t want to stay dislocated. We need each other to feel whole.
We need to celebrate and experience the sacraments of the Church. Our desire to receive the Eucharist can only be satisfied by the physical reception of Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity. Our desire to know and love Christ can only be quenched through His blood of the new covenant. For this to happen we need to be present during the celebration of the Mass. This is not somehow replaced by watching the Mass being celebrated on television. We are called to serve and that is active discipleship, not a passive observance. Discipleship is not a spectator sport.
We speak of trust in God. We declare that he is Lord and that he is in control. The covenantal relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ promises us eternal life if we but remain faithful to his word and love God with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole being and love our neighbor as our self. (Mt 22:37-39) I invite you to come back to in-person worship at Mass. A life worth living does not come without risk. We use to know that. It is time for all of us to reclaim our baptismal call as priest, prophet and king. Together let us inspire every heart to know, love and serve Jesus Christ.