Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Eastertide
”God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not lost but may have eternal life”
A close friend announced at Easter that she would not be returning to church after the pandemic is done and masses resume again. When I asked how she’d arrived at this conclusion, she cited the Catholic Church’s ‘lack of inclusivity’ as one of the reasons. She said she couldn’t agree with the Church’s stance on not marrying gay people. I had always assumed that she would stay a practicing Catholic, despite her liberal background. To hear this, after all her years in the faith… it was pretty disheartening. I wanted to hug her and say to her, “You’re making a mistake”. I wanted to tell her that even non-Catholics and divorcees can’t be married in Church, that it has nothing to do with a ‘lack of inclusivity’ but how sacred the sacrament of marriage is to Catholics. It’s how highly we value Christ and the Bride, that we don’t and won’t compromise on this. I wanted to tell her that this is not the reason to leave the Church, that this is just an excuse for whatever is the real reason that is ailing her. I wanted to say and do all that. But I did not. Instead, I stood there dumbfounded. In that moment, I couldn’t find the words. So, I listened. And asked questions. And listened some more.
In the words of Isaiah, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), but only if these people “hold fast (to) my covenant” (Isaiah 56:6). To all who perceive themselves as outcast and unlovable, God says, if they “keep my sabbaths… choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off… I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer” (Isaiah 56: 4-8). God’s covenant is open to ALL peoples. ALL.
A year of not going to Mass, not taking communion and not reflecting on the Word might seem like a trivial problem, relative to all the suffering caused by the pandemic. But if you filled those same Sundays with the anger and division that has become a mainstay of our secular media, it’s not so much of a stretch to see how one could end up angry and disillusioned with the Church. There is no salvation in secularism though, however enlightened or fashionable their arguments might seem. They draw you in with lengthy, liberal-leaning treatises that leave you empty and spent for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t know how to tell my friend all of this without angering her or putting her on the defensive. And I didn’t want to risk damaging the relationship we still had. So, I’m going to just pray – for a better moment to talk to her about it, for the right words to say when that moment comes, for an easier resolution than quitting mass. And I think I’ll take her out hiking in the forest. After all, beauty is also a path to God. Maybe He will speak to her, out there in the sunshine, amongst the trees, where it’s peaceful and quiet. Maybe He will reason with her, in the “gentle whisper” of the breeze. I may have failed her, but He will have the right words.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who have fallen away because of life, apathy, weariness or anger. We pray that God find a way to bring them back to the table.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who encourage us to stay on the narrow road, as hard as it may be sometimes, and even when we don’t always agree with the teachings of the Church.
Sharon. Thank you for this reflection. You stated a simple, clear truth. Our church is inclusive to all, but our sacraments are holy and when a person doesn’t agree/align themselves with the sacrament, one isn’t able to participate in that sacrament. But the doors are open to everyone – God will speak to everyone who has open ears.
I will be praying for you and your friend. I know that God will work through you, even if you don’t speak any words, but I imagine that there will be a time for you to share this simple truth in a manner that she will accept with the love you speak it.
I have, and I am sure we all have, friends and family members who have expressed the same.