My Dear Parish Family:
“…let this holy building shake with joy.”
Those words from the Easter Proclamation, the Exultet, move me every year when I sing them or hear them at the Easter Vigil. On the night when we celebrate the greatest event in human history, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we gather to lift our voices in praise. And this phrase from the Easter Proclamation becomes quite literal when the Gloria is sung and the bells of the church ring in unison with the people’s voices as they sing the angelic hymn celebrating the Resurrection.
This feeling is not contained to one night or to Easter Sunday. Every Sunday is, so to speak, a mini-Easter. We gather on Sunday for Mass precisely because the Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week. So, when we gather for Mass, we should be ready to let our glorious church, this architectural wonder of a building, shake with the joy of a believing people who have come to worship the Risen Christ and to be fed from his hand at the altar of sacrifice.
The reason I point these truths out is because I have noticed that many in our community of faith choose to be passive participants instead of active participants in the Mass. Let me be a bit more frank since I preached on this last week: At the 5:30pm Sunday evening Mass, I have noticed since my arrival here almost two years ago that it was a very transient Mass. Yes, we have some parishioners who are faithful every week, but for the most part, the rest of the congregation comes and goes depending on how their schedules work out that day or because they missed Mass in the morning or because (fill in excuse here). That’s what leads us to what we call a “transient Mass.” I could very well be celebrating Mass at the airport for travelers going through. In a parish, it does not and should not work that way.
The Mass is where we establish community and where we strengthen the bonds of our parish family. Last fall, I made the decision to invite a youth choir to sing at the 5:30pm Mass, and they have been very well received. However, being warmly received and actually joining the choir in worship are two different things. I walked into that Mass last week and as I processed down the aisle, I noticed that not a single person was singing a very simple refrain. My father reminded me of an old saying a priest friend of ours who recently passed away used to say: “We go to Mass not to be entertained, for that, you go the theater. We go to Mass to be fed!” As a preacher and as a pastor, I know when my flock is not being fed or better stated, not wanting to be fed. Halfway through my homily at 5:30pm last Sunday, I veered way off course to remind the congregation of this reality: that we are here not to be passive but to be active participants at Mass and to then go forth to tell the world the great news that Jesus Christ is Risen!
I will state categorically here in our bulletin what I said last Sunday: last Fall I made a pastoral decision to make the 5:30pm Sunday Mass our parish youth Mass. I have found that many of our older parishioners have taken great joy in this Mass and pray fervently that our youth may attend more frequently and participate. This will hopefully lead to a flourishing youth ministry. The Church of the Little Flower will no longer cede youth ministry to neighboring parishes. Our youth are here! There’s 900 of them across the street in our school and another 300 in our Religious Education program. Let us create an environment that is welcoming to them! Yes, each Mass has its particular character and charism, but the central essence is there: Jesus Christ waiting for us! May we make this holy building shake with joy every time we come to Mass, and if you want to be part of the great endeavor of our youth Mass then join us. But let’s leave the passive attitudes at home because when it comes to conquering the souls of this young generation for Christ, we need active worshippers in Mass with a sense of urgency to proclaim the Risen Jesus to the young! This is indeed a bold endeavor which is why at the end of my homily I turned to the image of the Divine Mercy and simply said, “Jesus, I trust in you!”
God bless you all,