Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
“We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly as is the custom of some, but encourage one another.”
In the small town parish where I grew up, it was risky to “stay away from the assembly” because other members would certainly notice. If Mildred was missing from her customary pew at 9 o’clock Mass, someone would probably call find out if she sick, or visiting her daughter in Omaha or had just gone another Mass. An elderly in-law aunt spent so much time taking attendance that we used to wonder when she found time to pray.
None of this has much to do with “rousing one another to love and good works” or “encouraging one another” – the reasons St. Paul tells us that we need to worship in community instead of privately. A lot of us probably think we’ve done everything we need to do simply by showing up and not snoring during the homily. Obviously we haven’t.
I’ve gone regularly to Mass for many years for many reasons: no choice as a child, a feeling of guilt for skipping as a young adult, a sense of obligation to my children as a parent, and of course, belief throughout. There have been weeks when Mass was inspiring, others when it was almost mechanical. At times I’ve found strength for the journey – answers to problems. At others, I’ve wondered why I bothered to show up. Generally, I’ve failed to reach out to fellow worshipers for mutual rousing “to love and good works.”
Ironically the “attendance mavens” of my youth may have been a little closer to what St. Paul urges than I have been. At least if one of them noticed Mildred missing, she’d call to check. How many of us even learn the names of those we see week after week – let alone reaching out to love and encourage or help if need be?
We lay people place too great a burden on the presider for a rewarding
worship experience. Even small things like greeting the person next
to us in the pew or connecting with someone in the congregation whom we
know has a problem would be a step in the right direction.
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