Avoiding church for long, reduces certainty in God’s love for us … rituals deepen the certainty of “belonging”; being loved


Avoiding church for long, reduces certainty in God’s love for us … rituals deepen the certainty of “belonging”; being loved

Happy Easter!  Today marks the end of Easter Sunday: the day of Resurrection.  But Easter continues for 6 weeks.  Let me start with the helpful few words of Fr Henri Nouwen [2021-04-2].

The Resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death.  It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us.  No, the Resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness to Jesus and to all God’s children. … to us God has said, “You indeed are my beloved children, and my love is everlasting.” … The Resurrection doesn’t answer any of our curious questions about life after death, such as: How will it be?  How will it look?  But it does reveal to us that, indeed, love is stronger than death.  After that revelation, we must remain silent, … and simply trust.

I found this strangely comforting, because the reality of our lives has not changed dramatically since Palm Sunday.  Yet, we are supposed to be happy now that Easter has come. Hopefully the celebrations over Easter have helped re-shape our thinking and encouraged us.

One thing our non-church-going brothers and sisters really miss out on is the psychological effects on the un-conscious part of our mind/ brain. Sometimes the Rituals may be boring, but they strengthen – by repetition – our emotional need for belonging, being loved, and the need to answer the questions like “why am I here?”

You might think that is just spiritual niceties and the sort of rubbish a priest should say. But let me share this inspiring story from a young person…

… a 13-year-old boy attended a Catholic school.  He loved his football and his Dad attended every game his son had ever played.  That’s not unusual, except that his father had had a serious illness, which caused him to go blind.  Sadly, the illness progressed, and the Dad died.

The football coach was a great mentor for the young man, and he gave the boy an opportunity to withdraw from the game following his father’s death.  ‘No, I would like to play’ was the young man’s response.  He then played the best game of his young life. After the game, he was congratulated by his teammates and family.  ‘I had to play well today’, the young man explained.  ‘It’s the first game Dad has ever seen me play!’

So often we think of Divine Mercy and the Resurrection in terms of God forgiving us and getting us into Heaven, rather than stuck in the middle of nowhere after death!

Mostly, I also believed like that.  Divine Mercy is less about forgiveness, and more about God’s desire to reveal to us that we are loved!  What God did for Jesus, God does for us.

Too often the Church Feasts become FUNCTIONAL (in our thinking), rather than RELATIONAL.  We appreciate God for what He’s gunna do for us, rather than for  feeling loved.

Can you remember a time when we did something really bad, that made mum/dad really angry?  Now, later, when we apologised and were forgiven: how did you feel when mum/dad hugged you and said “I love you?”

I don’t think we felt like mum/dad would kick us out of the house or stop feeding us  (functional issues), but what we grieved over was the loss of feeling loved/ worthy/ welcome.

When we focus on Church life as FUNCTIONAL, we will always live in fear because  functions depend on rules and laws – just look at the environment, physics and chemistry.

How many Catholics don’t go to Church as a kind of protest against the “rules”? Which  really means they’ve lost the RELATIONAL aspect of God through our Church life.

Perhaps part of that “loss” is caused by boring/ abusive priests? Perhaps the loss of seeing God’s love in the Church is caused by Catholic parents/ teachers/ parishioners who say one thing and do another: who talk about God but live like the devil.

Could I appeal to each of us, today, to be the Resurrection for others: rather than talking about it, while depressing them with our complaining, lack of gratitude, gossiping and selfishness.

To be the Resurrection is to be laughing, expressing gratitude for small things, praising other people’s strengths and sharing our time/ talents/ materials with others.

We pray for God’s blessing as you, as you try to help others feel Happy Easter!

By Gerard Conlan, OMI