October 21, 2005

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Worshiping God is our foundation for living a just life

During the spring, I think there is no more beautiful time in Indiana. Then, when fall arrives, I think there is no more beautiful season in Indiana. (For me, the seemingly never-ending gray winter is another story.) The natural beauty of the changing seasons in Indiana is a gift that lifts our spirits. I would like to think that our spirits are moved to offer special thanks to God, the architect of our earth’s beauty.

But our world is not always beautiful. A couple of weeks ago, I reflected on the natural tragedies of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They are the cause of enormous human suffering and devastation. In grappling with the horror of those events, I urged us to turn to God in our need for consolation and divine help.

I do not believe God sent the hurricanes as a punishment for our sins. On the other hand, the imperfections of our earthly world and humanity have their origins in turning away from God. The original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, had consequences for all of us. God gave them the dignity of free will, the ability to respond freely to his love for us. Even though Adam and Eve chose to say no to God—and succumbed to the temptation to want to be equal to God—the freedom to say yes or no to his love is our inheritance still.

And the beauty of the world and the beauty of life remain. For the gift of freedom and beauty, we should say yes to God’s creative love. In reality, we also inherited the possibility of saying no, and there are numbers of ways in which we do. We may not think of it very often, but our responsibility to acknowledge the existence of God and his divine love for us is the primal act of justice. If we say no to God’s love, if we refuse to give due reverence and worship to God, how can we have a basis for living a just life? It is the first commandment upon which all the others rest.

How do we say “yes” or “no” to God? I begin with the obligation in truth to worship God. I am amazed at the rather cavalier attitude that has been developing concerning our Sunday obligation to give God his due. I suppose it says something about our values.

When I ask people why they do not attend Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday, often enough I get the idea that it is a matter of whether or not it is convenient to go. Sometimes some other event, e.g., a Colts game, is more attractive. Or sometimes I hear “I don’t go because I don’t get much out of the Mass” as if the Eucharist is for our entertainment. To be sure, the Eucharist should be well planned and well celebrated, and it is in part for nurturing our faith. But, first and foremost, it is for worshiping God.

These and other reasons to stay away seem to say that God is not important enough in my life that I will sacrifice my time or other desires out of love or gratitude in order to worship him. Isn’t this a contemporary way of saying no to God? To say I don’t need God is at least shortsighted.

Our faith will not survive without practicing it because faith is like a muscle: if it is not exercised, it weakens. Just as our bodies need food and water and oxygen, so our spiritual lives need the sacraments of the Church and prayer in order to live and grow stronger. I will go even farther and say that we not only need (at least) weekly Mass, we need daily prayer as well. Prayer is our only way of keeping close to Jesus.

Respect for Jesus in other persons, respect for the dignity of human life, is yet another way to say yes or no to God in everyday life. Without closeness to Jesus, we are not apt to respect members of our families with the love they need and deserve. And without Jesus, we are not likely to recognize him in our neighbors and in the poor. Saying no to our family members, our neighbors and the poor is another way of saying no to God. Without prayer, the challenge is too much for us to manage.

Jesus gave us the Church and the sacraments of the Church to help us live truthful lives, that is, to recognize our need for God in tough times and to express humble thanks for the good times.

May the beauty of God’s creation touch our hearts in the colorful beauty of fall in Indiana. †

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