A friend recently told me that years ago I gave a homily that had helped him to change a habit of leaving Mass early! He said that I used the analogy of being a dinner guest in someone’s home, and that nobody would ever get up and leave while the host has gone to the kitchen to clear the table. We always wait and express gratitude and have an appropriate farewell expression. In the Mass the appropriate farewell is the final blessing and the recessional hymn. Jesus wants to bless us for our coming to his wedding feast, and bid us farewell!
I also get asked, “What is that latest I can arrive for Mass and fulfill my obligation?” I understand the human urge to cut the corner, to take a short cut, but should we be doing this in regards to our weekly worship of God? No Way! I know what family life is like, and that sometimes the family walking in late is not doing so because of sloth. Sometimes it is because the children decide to walk the dog, or visit the bathroom, or hide in the basement at the very time when parents are trying to shepherd them to the mini-van to go to Mass.
Tardiness is not always directly willed, and I will always try to be understanding of late arrivals. (Yes, and know that I am most guilty of this! Mass often is late because I am waiting for altar servers to vest, or trying to find a lector, or talking to a grieving widow, or sometimes I am just plain late). If I ask your understanding as a parish family, I can give it as well.
However, everyone knows that missing Mass without serious cause is a grave sin. To look at this issue in terms of ‘when is the latest I can arrive?’ or ‘when is the earliest I can leave?’ is the wrong way to look at this. It is a recipe for spiritual disaster to measure our love for God by what is the minimum permissible. I give you this quote from St. John Chrysostom: “When we perform an act of kindness we should rejoice and not be sad about it…. If you do away with miserliness and counting the cost, with hesitation and grumbling, what will be the result? Something great and wonderful! What a marvelous reward there will be: Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will rise up quickly. Who would not aspire to light and healing?”
What costs are you counting? Extra time in the parking lot? First in line at IHOP? Jesus gives you life at the cost of his own life. Is it really too much cost to stay for the entire Mass?
Pax Et Bonum,
Fr. John Mosimann