“The Church must introduce the individual Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ and bring Christians into His presence in the sacrament.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Recently, I’ve been making some headway with a few folks by inviting them to give the Church a first or second try. I’ve been leveraging the fact that our parish has a great pastor, consistently effective preaching, good music – you know, all the basics you’d want in a good parish. At a Saturday Vigil Mass, I saw one of the said people, and as fate would have it, Mass was being celebrated by a retired visiting priest who seemed to be having an off night. “You will really have to come when the pastor is here” I offered without prompting. Two weekends later, a different invitee came to Mass, and this time, the cantor was sick and couldn’t make it so we were music-less. “When the choir sings it’s amazing” I promised. I could hear myself trying to make up for an experience that I sold but wasn’t delivering.
I was reading an article about prayer and I was struck at how the author described some of the challenges around our expectations with prayer. We want the mountaintop. We want the St. Paul “a ha” burst of light. And if we don’t get it, we feel as though prayer didn’t work or worse, we feel we have been disappointed. The Lord isn’t offering an event, He’s offering a relationship. What did I offer or promise to my friends? How much more effective and authentic would my invitation have been if I led with what really mattered the most to me. I was leaning on the things I or my parish could give, not what God could give. Of course good preaching, great music, excellent leadership are things we strive for and their absence do not help a seeker to find a home. But as a friend along the journey, am I pointing to the right destination? Am I managing expectations for the fullness that only the Lord can give? Here’s to offering the goods and the Good News we’ve been promised.