So many of us, because of the pandemic, have been deprived of Mass. Many of our churches are closed. Others have very limited services. Catholics feel the loss
deeply. The innate need to worship our God, to join in communion with other members of the People of God, has been seriously interrupted. After decades of weekly or even more frequent participation in the Eucharist, the inability to celebrate Mass has been much more than a mere suspension of a well-established routine. Even with the regulated opening of churches for Mass, many are not inclined to practice social distancing and risk their health by returning immediately.
Does God care? What has changed during these months of lockout? One parishioner claims: “My absence from Mass over the past seven months seems to have made no difference to God whatsoever. God is neither happier nor sadder…” That is said against a background of faithfully attending Sunday Mass for almost seven decades.
Who can tell the mind of God?
Yet, I want to believe that God has noticed that worship has changed. Such a conclusion comes from the life and teachings of Jesus. He prayed to the Father, he encourages us to pray and to do so with great faith. Jesus taught us what to say in the Lord’s Prayer and at the Last Supper he gave us the gift of the Eucharist. He told us to repeat the offering in memory of him. Certainly, Jesus gave us this gift for our benefit, for our consolation. In the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary, he left us the Eucharist to worship our God and to join in the offering that he himself was to make. I am convinced God knows and that it makes a difference – a massive difference. Jesus told us so.
Again, I do not think we can apply human traits to God. Is God happy? Sad? I do not know, but I am sure it is pleasing to God that we do as Jesus taught us. He came to give us new life, to liberate us and to complete an extraordinary act of redemption. I believe God does care Jesus Christ promised to be with us until the end of time, but he never promised us a perfect Church. Just as we as individuals are imperfect and sinful, so there are also broken parts in the Church. A decision to return to communal worship, to Mass, is a “yes” to our love of God. It is also an acceptance that we are not perfect.
From the earliest days of the Church – when Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension should have been paramount – things were not ideal. Nor are they ideal today. With shame we must acknowledge the failings. Nevertheless, we must be honest and acknowledge that there is also much goodness. We are called to holiness. And God’s grace will continue to be with us, regardless of even a pandemic.