Today want to touch upon the question of when we leave Mass. Our Lord continually refers to us as sheep, and contemplation of shepherding shows that goats go before the shepherd, sheep follow him. So do you leave before the priest at Mass or after??
Of course I have noticed folks who come forward for Holy Communion and run out the door. 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 priests that have given long homilies on the sinfulness of arriving late for Mass or leaving early. I also 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 so I try to be understanding on the late arrivals. (Yes, and know that this even affects me, as sometimes Mass begins late because I am waiting for altar boys to vest, or trying to find a lector, or talking to a grieving widow, or sometimes I am just plain late). Because I ask your understanding as a parish family with my weakness, I give you my understanding and patience as well.
However, making a habit of leaving immediately after receiving communion is another issue entirely. Even on the occasions when Mass runs longer, that is not sufficient excuse to leave before the end of Mass. I don’t want to enter into debate about the sinfulness of leaving early or willfully arriving late. 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?
Respectfully in Christ,