“The Church — I repeat once again — is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.”
– Pope Francis
Every year around this time I take advantage of the generosity of Presbyterians. You could read that last sentence two ways, and you should. You see, the Presbyterian church near my house offers a wonderful vacation bible school. The church offers it for two primary reasons that they are very upfront about in the following order of importance. First, they want to tell my children about God. Second, they want me to join their church. The problem is, my primary reasons for sending my children there are less upfront and in the following order. First, at this point in the summer, I am tired of entertaining my children. Second, it’s really close to my house. Third, I spend more on one Door Dash delivery for myself than I do for all my children to attend this week-long camp. Fourth, did I mention that I’m ready for school to start? Lastly, I’m glad they talk about God. I have no intention of joining their church. In the past I have announced my Catholicism and they don’t seem to be phased by it.
As this year’s VBS began, I arrived promptly at 8:50 a.m. for the scheduled drop-off as the instructions indicated. When I arrived, a kind volunteer said, “Oh I’m sorry. Drop-off is at 8:55am. The volunteers need some more time.” I politely offered a mea culpa, clarifying that the paper I had said 8:50 a.m. A Catholic mom approached with her daughter who recognized mine. She had the same experience, only she was on her way to work and had a 9:00 a.m. phone call. She was a little more direct in offering that the information said it started at 8:50. A few more parents arrived with the same confusion and then the subtle grumbling started. Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a parking lot complaint session over the fact that there was a typo and we had to wait five minutes to enter. Thankfully, it wasn’t even five minutes. We dropped off our children, the rage dissipated, and we all went on with our day. As I got in my car and gave a discontented huff, I caught myself. Here I was, using this church and their lovely volunteers for free babysitting, and I couldn’t give them 5 minutes?
Later, when I picked up little Norah who was having a wonderful time, the kind volunteer asked me to show my ID and sign her out. She then handed me Norah’s epi-pen (in the event she ate a peanut) and said with a mix of earnestness and anxiety, “I have been keeping my eye out for her all day!” I thanked both volunteers profusely. On the drive home, I couldn’t help but think about my own Church and how much I expect from Her. I may have the right under law to practice my religion, but what rights of service do I believe my discipleship entitles me to? Our Catholic Church has become a provider of so much – social service, education, advocacy. Have I come to expect these as simply a consumer, or do I contribute to them as a believer?
We all want a good school, quality music, preaching that stirs our hearts, not to mention a short drive to Mass, our favorite pew, and a convenient Mass time. But are we entitled to it? Our discipleship doesn’t entitle us to anything other than a constant duty to give glory and praise to our God and to invite others to do the same. I won’t be converting to the Presbyterian church, but I will be thanking them for the generosity and hospitality they display without any expectation of something in return, only the chance to talk about God to young people. Prayers as you fulfill your duty to do the same this week.
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