Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Every year we come to the Solemnity of Christ the King and we give a pause and consider what the end of time will be like. Christ our King and our judge will take some role as facilitator of justice as we pass from one age to the next, and we will be given the eternal reward of our goodness, or the corresponding eternal emptiness which will simply correspond to the level of life which we have chosen to live in God in this world.
We realize that there is still time to change. This is why God gives us the gift of time, because we can change. Pope John Paul II said that the person who is most perfect in this world is the one who has changed most often. That is also why God has given us the Church, because we need a safe place to belong while we look into that change. It is not an easy thing, it most often requires the support and prayers of a loving community.
I think, sometimes, that God will deal most harshly with those who have adopted an attitude that doesn’t seek renewal alongside others, who stand in judgment of sinners rather than extending the kind of love that alone is able to break through the division of sin and its devastation, touch the hearts of those who are struggling and welcome them home. Still remembering that home is a place of change, it is often too difficult for so many to try to open that door alone.
Yesterday I had a chance to go to Manarola, Italy, one of the most beautiful places on earth, I’m thinking. (As I write this I am in Siena, another of those places.) You should Google Manarola for images of this place, one of the world heritage sites because of its unparalleled beauty. So it was Sunday, and we worked our day in the Cinque Terre around getting to Mass at 11 in Manarola.
There is only one Mass for the whole region. There was only one Sunday Mass, and 34 people attended. I suddenly began thinking about how much we consider the end times to be a time of the few faithful who will remain, and the so many who will have either given up or denied the faith when faced with one of the several deadly isms of our day — individualism, secularism, pluralism, humanism, even indifferentism (we could also include stupidism) — the so-called “sacred remnant” who will still be paying attention on the last day when the Lord calls.
Mass in Manarola reminded me of that idea. Where are all the people? It has become a nervous joke in Europe. Where has everyone gone?
It worries me that we might not be so far behind in the United States.
Well, I refuse to accept the “sacred remnant” idea. To do so would be to give into the same kind of lack of regard that so many have shown in setting aside their faith. We have to be people who continue to fight and speak up and do our best to live the values we believe so that others might look again.
As I looked around that church I wondered why it has gotten to this point? The priest seemed engaged. I don’t speak fluent Italian but I got the gist of his good homily. The music was thin, but there was a lively group of six children in the front who sat together and helped with the Mass, bringing up the gifts, offering the prayers of the faithful. All in all, it was a beautiful Mass, it just wasn’t attended.
You and I have a lot to do at the end of the day in order to make sure that more than only a few make it to the finish line. We simply can’t settle for the minimal returns of a few faithful members in the Body of Christ when the personal investment of God is so great in the hopes of yielding a fruitful return. It is not okay what is happening in our world — and, though we aren’t powerful to make any real global change, we can start with our own houses and families, and get the word out to our parish.
God bless you.