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Catholic Moment: What’s on your mind?

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March 13, 2011

By Jeanne Hunt

I thought that I was able to take the First Commandment out of the competition for most personal failures until a wise priest said to me, “Whatever you think about when you have nothing else on your mind, that is your god.” Wow, you mean when I am sitting in church listening to a boring homily and my mind wanders to…brunch….vacation plans…­work… investing that bonus? Those things are little gods in my life?


I thought this commandment was all about the golden calf in the time of the Exodus. Yet it seems that God wouldn’t have wasted one of the “Big 10” on something that was just timely for a few hundred Jews. “Thou shalt not put strange gods before me” is still a major problem for us.


A lot of things seem to come before God in our lives. We spend most of our time, money and attention tending to those strange gods. In fact, if we want to get a handle on what we are worshipping, we just need to look at our checkbooks, planners and recent Facebook entries for an accurate list.


This issue became painfully clear to me when I was teaching a class on the Ten Commandments to a group of fourth graders. We were on the Third Commandment. I had already explained strange gods and taking God’s name in vain. I told the children that keeping the Sabbath meant having a holy day with God, and that meant going to Mass. In fact, I surprised them with the news that Catholics believe it is a sin not to go to Mass on Sunday without a good reason. However, I quickly relieved their concern by assuring them that unless they could drive the family car, it was not a 9-year-old’s job to get the family to Mass.


One little boy spontaneously erupted with an insight, “My Dad doesn’t take us to Mass because he wants to play golf on Sunday mornings. Golf is my dad’s god!”


I couldn’t have said it better myself. This child had put two and two together and realized that whatever we devote ourselves to, whatever comes first on our list of priorities … that reigns as our god.


So, what is it for you and me? As we begin Lent, this is the question of the season. We need to take a hard and honest look at what is keeping us from God. Most of us can’t wait to rush out of our one-hour Sunday Mass to get back to what we love: sports, work, shopping, family and friends, money, health worries, electronic games, food and drink, television. All of these are very good things in the right balance. Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that one or more of these things may mean more to us than a relationship with God. God is sitting on the sidelines while we put our own version of the golden calf front and center.


These are the days to turn our lives around. We have 40 days to rearrange our priorities. Rather than giving up zucchini and line dancing this Lent, we need to get down and dirty and really challenge ourselves. It’s time to give more of our lives to God. That means daily prayer time and even going to Mass on a weekday. We need to stop making excuses about being too busy to attend the parish mission, Lenten services and the sacrament of reconciliation.


Just like any parent, God yearns for our attention. He loves us more than we could ever love our own children. He wants us to waste time with Him and not care that we missed golf or the last episode of reality TV.


Oh, by the way, Father Dan reports that “Golf Dad” and family have been showing up on Sunday. It seems my little prophet took God’s message home with him after our class. n

Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.

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