Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
Hymns, Eucharist and prayers go together as perfectly as an artist’s palette. Although we will need to talk about them at times as separate and distinct holy activities, they are really bound together in that one and never-changing purpose of the Mass of drawing us ever closer to God. What is worship, anyway? We could talk about it in theological terms, but we might miss the whole point and focus of worship—like I once did.
Years ago, when my son was just a boy, we were at church for a midweek service. After the Lectionary had been read—to help us focus away from the world and onto to the supernatural kingdom of Christ—I was invited to get up and address the congregation.
About one minute into my talk my son, Patrick, got up from the last pew on the left side of the nave and walked forward. Quietly, he sat down directly in front of me on the first pew. Our eyes met briefly, and we smiled at each other. I was pleased he wanted to be so close. A few more minutes passed, when Patrick got up and walked toward me . . . right up to the lectern where I was standing.
He startled me a bit. What’s he doing? I thought. But not wanting to miss a beat—I felt I was on a roll—I simply let him stand next to me. In another second he wrapped his arms around my waist. A little embarrassed, I wrapped one arm around his shoulder. He wasn’t going away. In a moment, I looked down and asked in a whisper, “What is it, son?”
“I just need to be near you,” he said, squeezing me more tightly now.
That’s nice, I thought. Not wanting to disrupt my lesson, I sent him back to his seat. And as he was going, looking a bit dejected, I realized the opportunity I had missed. While I was busy talking about God, a son had wanted to be close to his father. This father, too preoccupied with a theological thought, had sent his son back to an empty pew. Why hadn’t I just dropped everything and taught the lesson God was trying to teach me?—that worship is nothing other than wanting to embrace, and to be embraced, by the Father who is loving in all His ways.
Patrick—totally unconcerned with an entire parish looking on—braved the long, lonely walk to the front of the nave to be near me!
Parents, it is simple enough to make our sons and daughters aware of God’s longing for them, His children; simple enough to tell them of Christ’s compassion for them; simple enough to be available to receive them with unlocked hearts and open arms.
Later, I asked Patrick to forgive me. Even in my failure, I could tell him that God desires his adoration and will never turn him away—never! God would stop. He would turn to my son no matter what was happening in heaven. And He would receive Patrick’s whispers of love and his deeply personal need to be near Him.
That day, my son reminded me that his longing for me is what worshiping God is really all about. If we teach our children that worship is all-out love for God—the way some folks worship sports, or food, or business—they will understand that worship is not just a fifty-minute hour of ritual and ceremony. The Mass is their chance to encounter and embrace the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just like my son, Patrick, who years earlier walked forward to embrace his earthly father, they get to walk forward and embrace their heavenly Father in the consecrated elements of the body and blood of Christ.
I like how Frank Sheed put it: “The bread becomes his body, but where his body is, there he is… where his blood is, he is. Where either body or blood is, there is Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity. That is the doctrine of the Real Presence” (Taken from Theology for Beginners, 1981 by Frank J. Sheed, Servant Books, Box 8617, Ann Arbor, MI 48107).
To that, may our progeny in 2010 add a resounding: Amen!