It’s been nearly eight months since I left the University of Minnesota to work full-time for our parish. At some point in each of my previous jobs, I looked around and asked myself, “Jim, what are you doing here?” Thankfully that has yet to happen since I joined the church staff, but I don’t doubt that it could—work is work, after all.
Faith is work, too. It’s hard sometimes to believe in a good God with so much wickedness in the world, including within the Church. It’s hard to do the right thing when so few people agree on what the right thing is, even within the Church. It’s hard to pray or read or learn more about Jesus, to drag ourselves to Confession, or to haul the family to Mass each Sunday when so many Catholics just…don’t.
I’ll bet at least once you’ve sat in church, looked at Father and the people gathered around you, and asked, “What am I doing here?” It’s a worthwhile question to consider. According to data collected by the Pew Research Center, not only do most U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass once a month or less, but many disagree with the Church’s fundamental teachings regarding marriage, contraception, and the sanctity of life. Yet they persist in calling themselves Catholic. What’s keeping them in the Church?
Well, what’s keeping you? Is it habit or family tradition that brings us here week after week? That makes us seek the sacraments for our children? Is it a hope we hold out for the next generation, even though we may have lost it for our own? Is it a hollow ache in our chest that insists there must be something more to this life? Or is it the peace that radiates from altar, the tabernacle, the Eucharist—peace the world cannot provide?
This month the adults in our LIFT classes focused on the Mass and Holy Communion. We heard the deeply personal testimony of one of our youth ministry volunteers on her own struggles with her Catholic faith—and ultimately, on how she could never turn her back on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus said, “This is my body…This is the cup of my blood”—and so it is. Jesus is God, and God’s words are the very words of Creation. They bring about exactly what they say.
I’ve said more than once that if we as Catholics truly understood who was present in the tabernacle, nothing could keep us from Him. We would fill the pews to overflowing, bring family and friends to a personal encounter with Jesus. We would gladly sacrifice to spend time at His feet, listening to Him, learning from Him, serving Him.
And yet I don’t do these things. We don’t do these things.
The red lamp above the tabernacle signifies that He’s always there. What’s keeping you?
Blogger’s Note: This article appears in the Sunday, Jan. 25, church bulletin .