Catholic Thoughts: Easter a time for Catholics to come home
Thousands of Catholics in our archdiocese will come to Mass on Easter Sunday. At least 40 percent of these good people haven’t been to church since Christmas. For their sake and for the sake of all of us who are so pleased to see them, I offer a few instructions for making the most of their experience:
First of all, it is great to see you at church. We miss you and love you more than words can say. So many of you can credit your grandparents and parents for passing on this amazing religion to you. Those of us who are in the pews every Sunday feel pride in your decision to come home to church this Easter. You remember your devotion and come again to honor it. So welcome to the celebration of faith that is a part of your roots.
In the last year or so, the words have changed. The new Roman Missal (a new translation of the Mass prayers) was a tough change for all of us. It will be even harder for you. After all, in the past, the words were a soothing comfort to a beautiful old memory of tender sacred moments in your life and now it is so different, so strange. There is a card in the pew to help you pray with us. Jesus still breaks bread and Communion happens regardless of how we phrase it. So try to say these new words and mean them. But if it is too much, just put the card down and simply watch the power of what we do. In the end, words we say mean little. It is their meaning that brings grace.
In the second part of the Mass, you will be a listener: first to the ancient writing of the Bible and then to the homily. I want you to look for your message. I can guarantee that there is a special message from God meant just for you hidden in all that listening. Perhaps, it is a word that pops out from the Bible readings or maybe the priest says something that hits your brain so hard that it ricochets off your soul. Take that phrase or that one word home with you. It is a gift from God.
Now comes that mystical moment of Eucharist. God invites us to receive His very essence. Every Catholic (in a state of grace) is invited to receive the bread and wine. Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters believe that the bread and wine are eaten as a remembrance of the Last Supper. But Catholics believe that it actually becomes Jesus’ real body and blood. When we receive it, we are literally immersed in His being. We call it Eucharist, and it is a powerful, life-changing experience for those who believe. If you are not able to receive because you are not a practicing Catholic, ask Jesus to come into your heart and feel His presence. And please know that a return to the table may take only a visit to an understanding priest who will lead you back to your place at the family table.
Finally, the last part of the Mass is the leaving. We say goodbye with a blessing and a prayer that we become Jesus Christ to others in this hard-hearted and loveless world. You might be going out to share a family brunch, have an Easter egg hunt, and on Monday you will return to your busy life. What would make Jesus very happy is that you don’t forget the strange peace of your time in church. May the desire for that peace bring you back before next Christmas. It’s real, it’s here, and God wants you to have it.
Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.