I hate going to Mass. I work for an archdiocese so I expect I’m supposed to love it. But at the risk of sounding "critical" or "negative" – the most deplorable of crimes no matter how honest, true or even necessary – I would readily admit that it is often the most depressing time of my week.
By a hopeful churchgoer
Whether the cold pseudo-community, the trite liturgical add-ons or the soppy, narcisistic hymns of self-soothing that we sing in the voice of God to ourselves ("Be not afraid, I go before you always"); I often sit in a sparsely populated pew wondering "why do I come here?"
Am I a part of the problem? You betcha.
I have long since given up going out of my way to talk to people I don’t know (that’s about 98 per cent of attendants), offering to help or doing battle with the local priest or pastoral councillors to try and help improve things.
So, if you’re someone who goes to church once or twice a year, I can’t say I blame you but despite my blithering above, I think we have got one, really big reason to stay in the game and I invite you to join me in making a come back to Catholicism this Christmas.
Why? Because no matter how bad things get, in the world or in the Church, Jesus Christ, the one who makes hope possible – who is hope – is truly present there and that shouldn’t surprise you or me. He has been turning up in situations of disarray since, well, Christmas.
Forget for now the quaint traditional depiction of Christ asleep in a manager under pre-ordained starlight in a hay-filled barnyard in the pristine countryside.
Christ was likely born in a first century stable: an animal-filled cave in the hillside.
Born in what might have been a dank, excrement-laden hovel.
If the Lord of the Universe would so humble himself to meet me, to meet you, then I think I had better humble myself and suffer the relatively benign tedium of attending Mass on Sunday.
But let’s not guilt ourselves in to going. Surely, we have better reasons than that.
For me, it’s that the time I have spent apart from Jesus this year has been my most self-destructive – hopeless, in the figurative and literal sense of the word.
I have become so self-invloved that loving others in my life "selflessly" has become an impossibility. Alone without God, I have conclusively demonstrated, that I am not up to the task.
Sure, I’m a "good person". I haven’t killed anyone and occasionally shell out some change for whoever’s asking but I simply cannot love those around me in the way they ought to be loved and they are unable to do the same for me.
Without the grace of God in their heart, no human person can.
Can you get enough of that grace to do just that in a bi-annual hit? Not likely. Not at all really. Conversion is an ongoing process.
It would be great if we could convert like the good thief, making the move just before we dropped off the perch, but it wouldn’t add much to the life we had lived in between. The grace of Jesus Christ poured out in this world is not for the dead but for the living.
He gives us his very self in the Eucharist through the words and the command that he uttered: "Do this in memory of me."
And so, I will grit my teeth this Christmas and pray for better things to come in my ongoing attendance.
I will think of the loving God who chose to be born in amongst the filth and obscurity of a lonely hillside.
It’s the same God who rocks up to see the likes of me each week, at Mass.