Today is Sunday, and we went to the early Mass as usual. Same pew, same neighbors. But behind us sat an inquisitive seven year old nestled next to his grandma. He was bright-eyed and his face was framed by brown ringlets.
“You come here every week?” he whispered to his grandma. “Every week? Every Sunday?” After the affirmative response, he went on. “What about them? Or those people over there? They all come here every week? Every Sunday?” Another affirmative response.
“Why? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Why are they all doing it?”
“When you care about someone, you spend time with them. Like Grandpa and I come to visit with you and spend time together. We are spending time together here because we care about each other, and we care about God and we believe God cares about us.”
“How do you know?” he whispered back.
She paused for a fraction of a second.
“It makes people happy?” he volunteered. “I see them smiling at each other…this makes people happy to spend time, to be here.”
“Yep. Every Sunday.” she chuckled. “Every Sunday.”
There was a tiny spark of the divine in those smiles, in the chuckles. It was a bit of joy coming on the heels of reports about attrition in the Catholic Church, the demise of the institution as it is known today. It follows young people’s confident statements about the non-existence of a higher power or god, their beliefs that by 14, they had figured out it was all a scam, all religion in any form. And all of that may be true. But every Sunday, there is a chance to find another connection, to discover the divine spark. That exists everywhere and is not confined to a building or a singular liturgical experience.
To fully and ultimately reject all notion of faith community or God is a conscious deliberate choice made by an individual. It may be a product of the scandals or bad persoanl experiences. Maybe it is a moral or ethical consideration. The choice, however, does not change the human need for what is truly meaningful. It does not eliminate the human capacity for reverence or deep appreciation for the gifts life has to offer. It is simply a choice, one that will alter life experiences and generational identity. It may represent the future and independence of thought, an advanced form of individuation. Or it may mean that the spark which ignites connections and generates the best of what it is to be human is found in book clubs and online activity, in soccer leagues and families. It may mean that new understandings are emerging every day of what it means to be part of something bigger than self.
Every choice bears intended and unexpected consequences, and this one is no different. It might be worth thinking that every Sunday, every day, does matter; the way time is spent does matter. Those choices validate persons and groups, defines through behavior the values and beliefs of individuals. Questioning ourselves, reflecting on purpose and possibility opens up new dimensions of experience and possibility. Opening the dialogue is a step that takes courage and conviction.
Thinking about our purpose in doing things, in the choices we make about time, matters. Sundays are the chance to do that, to take a moment to be apart, wherever you are. Taking the time to ask the questions, to remember the why…it all matters. Discovering what other people think and believe and feel is worth knowing. There is the chance to learn about self and others, to discover more deeply the wonders of the world that exists beyond self. Every Sunday offers new moments of choice, of endings and beginnings and of growth and change. It’s all in the approach.