I was reading an article the other day entitled, ‘Can You Change Yourself?’, by a journalist turned teacher. It was a noteworthy piece, but started off with the wrong question, and from the standpoint of the individualistically dominated mindset of western culture. Before I started to read it, I said to myself, ‘The answer is no, we can’t change ourselves, but a greater power can redeem and recreate us.’ Interestingly, the author seemed to be hinting that change and maturity can be seen as a journey back to who we really are, though it was understood in a very secular way.
This brings me to the Mass.
Unless we are changed by the presence of Christ, we have not really been present to him. Being changed is a lifelong process that involves being reminded of who God is, who we are, what paths we have been taking, how to grow, mature, or just simply stop and take a different road. There are pivotal moments when we are aware, at least afterwards, that crucial decisions have or had to be made.
Rarely, is a whole community, indeed the whole Church, faced with such a moment: we are now.
It would be very tempting to launch into a series of teachings on the Eucharist, its importance for our Christian lives, the theology and philosophy which explains how Christ can be truly present, even the rules and regulations governing the attendance at mass personally if we are able to. I won’t be doing that; not right now, anyway.
Firstly, I want to admit to a few elephants in the room:
· There will be some (perhaps many) previously practicing Catholics who will not return to in-person attendance at mass, and this for a variety of reasons.
· We cannot return to a previous ‘normality’, as if the last fifteen or so months never happened.
· Some have found online masses a boon, others a curse.
· Some have developed a lifestyle and indeed a spirituality which they have found helpful, which does not propel them to ‘coming back to mass,’ though it may involve ‘tuning in’ from time to time on the internet.
· Many have re-connected with the Church but are not sure that is going to lead them to setting a foot inside the door anytime soon.
· The balance of power has shifted in the Church, and we are not sure where it is going to finally ‘rest’.
· Some will ‘jump up and down’ insisting people come back to mass, ‘or else’ (certainly, some of my fellow clergy, and probably a few of the laity as well), couched, no doubt, in more diplomatic language than ‘of old’, but with the same intent; what a waste of time and emotional energy.
· Others, again, will be resigned to smaller congregations hoping that there is enough of an interest to justify keeping the doors open.
· …please feel free to name your own elephant…
And so, to the question I would like to ask: Can we be changed? My answer, yes, but only by an encounter with Christ. The next question(s), where, when, and how do we meet Christ?
I invite you to walk with me for as long as you like on this journey of reflection, asking the questions we perhaps secretly ask ourselves, but don’t like to speak out loud to anyone else.
We have a tremendous opportunity, a real prospect for a new life in Christ, as a Church and as individuals within that Church. It is by the grace of God, that this Church Year we shall read Chapter Six of the Gospel of John, when Jesus invites all to come to a deeper belief in him, the Bread of Life. I ask you to read this chapter over the next few weeks, as we open our hearts and minds to him who sets us free.