Isn’t God Worth Our Whole Time?

06-02-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Leonard F. Villa

Why do people exit the church before Mass ends usually right after Communion? Sadly, it’s a long existing phenomenon in many parishes. Obviously there are real emergencies that can take place where people have to leave church early. That’s not the issue here. St Philip Neri, a 16th century saint, assigned two Mass servers to accompany a man, down the street, who left church after Communion, with lighted candles .The man, of course, returned demanding an explanation, which gave the saint a chance to explain the importance of taking time to thank God for the gift of the Eucharist. The final blessing and dismissal send us forth to transmit what we have received to our brothers and sisters.

If we leave directly after Communion, then we lose this important component of our spiritual lives. In the Diary of St. Faustina, Jesus remarks how sad He is that people treat Him as a dead object and busy themselves with other things. One of the reasons for devotion to the Sacred Heart is to fire up love for the Lord especially in the Eucharist. The Lord remarked to St. Margaret Mary about the coldness shown to Him in this sacrament of His Body and Blood.

A Jesuit priest, Fr. Teigue, recently tackled this question in a recent article in Crisis, an online Catholic publication, with this provocative title: “Why Do (Mass going) Catholics Resent God? It began this way: Imagine receiving this message from a priest on a Sunday night: I’m becoming more convinced that people resent having God in their lives at all. They resent their Sunday obligation, and they believe that, somehow, it’s my fault that they have to be at Mass. Anything that slows down the distribution of Holy Communion (the reception of which entitles congregants to make a hasty exit from their reviled place of confinement) just prolongs their inconvenience and heightens their indignation. Meanwhile, they have no idea what’s coming, and they won’t give me a chance to tell them.

He gives possible reactions: “At least they’re coming to Mass, Father! “You have to meet people where they’re at, Father!” “You sound very judgey, Father! He then makes the following interesting observation: Parents know that once a toddler starts screaming, “Mine!” their journey suddenly becomes permanently an uphill one. We foolish sinners speak of “my life” and “my time” as if we gave ourselves those gifts—and they’re not really gifts because we “deserve” our twenty-four-hour days and our lifespan. (A moment’s examination would reveal those claims to be the nonsense that they are, which is why we sinners assiduously avoid such things as silence, which would facilitate such unwelcome examinations.) Sunday’s Mass (even Saturday’s “Sunday Mass”) represents an intrusion upon “my time” and “my life.”

Is he right? Well all human beings struggle with the deadly sin of pride. Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as vanity. It is the tendency to make ourselves the center of the universe and the notion that God must serve us. Fr. Teigue is right also in the sense that God is a demanding God: You must love the Lord Your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus teaches that the sign of our love for Him is keeping His commandments. The demands of worship and the Catholic Faith go against the grain of our fallen humanity. The first two purposes of the Mass are the worship of God and thanksgiving. He’s God I’m not. I owe Him everything. Only in the worship of God, forgetting self, do I find my true self! On the heels of pride is another deadly sin sloth, the tendency in fallen human beings, which resists prayer, the worship of God, and His demands. It is listed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under sins against God’s love:

#2094 One can sin against God's love in various ways:
- indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine love; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.
- ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine love and to return him love for love.
- lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.
- acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.
- hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments.

Pride and Sloth start in our feelings, which at that point is not a sin. With sloth the feeling is one of aversion for the things of God, the demands of God are just too much trouble for me and interfere with what I really like and really want to do. The “children of sloth” are: Sluggishness regarding the commandments. To keep our eyes on the goal of God, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing the specific kinds of things He commanded us all to do, such as honoring His day by going to Mass every Sunday. Faintheartedness regarding spiritual obligations. Do we give our full effort and attention to spiritual obligations, in things as simple as speaking to God in prayer as well as in things as difficult as publicly standing up for the right to life? Despair. Are we spiritually apathetic and despairing because we doubt that God could show forgiveness and mercy to sinners such as ourselves? To do so is to doubt God’s loving power and mercy and to accept not the best but the worst as our lot. Spite toward those who lead others to spiritual goods. Have we been spiteful to those who stand up boldly to do God’s will? Have we disparaged the priest who dares to give powerful sermons on controversial topics or our neighbors in the pew who are willing to take a public stand to pray at an abortion center and offer counsel to women in crisis? Malice. Hopefully we do not openly detest the spiritual goods of God, as do some of the most virulent “new atheists” who describe a Christian upbringing as child abuse, but do we do anything to defend the Faith when it is attacked in our presence?

Dr. Kevin Vost remarks: Alas, sloth has other powerful allies that quite directly strive to remove our eyes from the goal of God and bring them down to gaze upon the world. One term for this worldly view that champions sloth in our time is the ideology of “secularism.” The word derives from the Latin saecularis which means “of an age, or a generation,” and it has long referred to “worldliness” in Christian usage. Secularism is a worldview with no place for religion and, therefore, no place for God. Those with a thoroughly secularist worldview will certainly spend no time trying to conquer sin as a first step toward loving God. The influential philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that it is not sin, but rather the sense of sin, the very notion that it is possible to behave in a way that is contrary to God’s will, that leads to man’s unhappiness.

By 1973, the eminent psychiatrist Karl Menninger would come to write the book Whatever Became of Sin?, arguing that increasing societal problems, the growing incidence of mental disorders, and increasing unhappiness had resulted from the growth of secularism and the rejection of the concept of sin in modern culture. Four and a half decades have passed since then, and our problems continue to mount, as more and more people seem to flounder, having lost track of the meaning of life. Although I hope and pray that every one of my readers still has a zest for life, we might also ask ourselves how a downplaying of the dire importance of sin in acquiescence to the social winds of the times has grown within the Church herself, not to mention within our own souls. To root out key obstacles that keep us from the enjoyment of God, we must pulverize not only the sloth that would turn our hearts from God but also the secularism that seeks to divert and poison our minds and our Church as well. When we refuse to accept sloth into our hearts and secularization into our minds, we ready our souls to accept only the best, the things that lead us to God. https: //

You can read Fr. Teigue’s whole article here: -a814d7770c-28050801&mc_cid=a814d7770c&mc_eid=5f69cbcd55