After I don’t know how long a lapse, perhaps as long a lapse as I have been consecrated to the Sacred Heart, I finally did, well, something of a holy hour. All I did was watch Catholic TV. It was nothing intellectually stimulating or even inspiring. It was more like something that wasn’t bad for me, which I had to get through. And, yet, I was given, through God’s grace, a little (rather flooring) moment of insight.
A program about music was being aired, one that was filmed at a beautiful ArchAbbey. This caused me to think about all of the beautiful churches that are closing their doors in my area. It’s been bothering me. My own parish church is one that seems to always be threatened with the ax, because our income is low and the cost of maintaining the 120-year-old building — a beautiful building — is high. It’s strange to me how it seems as though the churches that are the least attractive to look at are the ones that are thriving, their doors safely open. Of course, it’s not the beauty of a church that brings true worshipers within. Art devotees may worship beautiful things, but God is not a work of art, nor a beautiful building. God is God, who alone is worthy of worship. And I do believe that God is grieved the most, not by the churches that are closing, but by the hearts that are closing.
Where is God truly to be worshiped?
Does the architecture of the church have to follow just such a pattern with just so many stained-glass windows done in just such a style? Are beautiful grounds with a beautiful landscape at the background necessary? What kind of music is appropriate so that God may be worshiped? Does it really matter? No. No matter how grand a cathedral or a church or a choir — God is always worshiped in the heart.
Which begs the question:
Are the doors of my heart open for worship?
A little later in the hour, I was wondering what God wants me to do. If, in true worship, I give myself to God, then what does that mean? What will that look like, what will I be doing? I remember Jesus’s conversation with Peter:
Jesus: “Peter, do you love me?”
Peter: “Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus: “Then, feed my sheep.”
So, how do I feed his sheep? If I am a writer, and I believe that I am a writer, then, perhaps, my act of writing is an act of evangelization. It is a way of spreading the Gospel, the good news, a way of bearing Christ to people so that they may have an encounter with him. It is, of course, not I who will produce such a moment, such an encounter, but God — God’s grace working through me. Will that feed his sheep? Is this what I’m supposed to do… because it seems to me that it isn’t direct and intimate enough. It isn’t strong and vital enough… it just isn’t enough.
Along this line of thinking came this thought:
What would I do if I could do anything?
If I had the power to be some great and vital person, an extraordinary and active person of influence throughout the whole world, what would I do? Would I herd people into beautiful church buildings? Would I guilt them or coerce them, trick, threaten, or cajole them into Divine worship and prayer in front of marble alters and gilded artistry? No.
I would want to speak a word of kindness to people. I would want to soothe their souls, slake their feverish brows, heal their wounds, ease their burdens, and share in their woes. I would want to love them. And I would hope that, by loving them, they would love as well and know all of the truth, goodness, peace, joy — the fullness of life that is loving.
Yes, that’s right. I would want to love, so that they would love one another as I love them — and that, of course, is Christ.
God did not condescend to become one of us in order to push us together in places of worship so that we could recite and respond by rote, surrounded by pretty things. I do believe that God wants us to come together in our love of God and, with all of our skills and talents for beauty and inspiration, praise His Holy Name — so that we may then be further inspired to love God and one another and to go forth throughout the whole world to love. The beginning and the point, the source and the summit of life, is love. Real love.
Sometimes, I wish that God had just come down in a more visibly or intellectually obvious way, with undeniable signs pointing toward the Church and toward doing what is right. Don’t you? Everyone would just follow along then, a no-brainer. But… that isn’t love. And God is love.
God creates each and every one of us in His own divine image and likeness — by loving, through loving, for loving. The holy heights, depths, and breadths of real love are most readily and joyfully received and lived through a committed life of faith and the practice of self surrender, self-sacrifice, self gift. Knowing this, we see how Christ Jesus truly is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Not everyone will “get it right” — but everyone is able to be loved and to love. What God, in real love, wants for humankind is not so different from what we want for the world when we also love humbly, selflessly, and generously: to love and to be loved.
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
So, now I’m thinking that, maybe my acts of evangelization, my writing, won’t inspire people to come to the fullness of faith and life in the worship of God through the teachings and community of Christ in the Catholic Church — I don’t know. But, if what I do and say, if who I am, inspires someone to love, to really love… then God’s grace has worked through me and, in that tiny little moment, in that tiny little whisper, I am most closely emulating Christ. I can’t always bring people to Christ — but I can always bring Christ to people.
And maybe that’s exactly what God wants from me.
© 2014 Christina Chase