Teachers know that some students do only the bare minimum to get a passing grade. They consider school to be a burden and would rather be doing something else. Consequently, they do not learn much and keep classmates from learning.
Other students do extra work. They read, they study, they hand in their work on time. For them school is an opportunity to learn, not an obligation. The same kind of diversity carries into adult life, indeed into our faith. There are folks who do the bare minimum. Coming to church is just another task. The sense of obligation hovers over our heads. Weekend Holy Mass is a Commandment, a precept of the Church, and one of the codes in Canon Law. Missing Holy Mass on Sunday is considered a serious sin. Therefore, none of us want to be in trouble when we die, so we make every effort to be here. Suppose that we would treat our spouse the way that some of us treat our faith. Consider telling your spouse, “It’s that day of the week again. Time to give you a kiss. Let’s get it over with. I really don’t feel like it; but pucker up anyway.” Intimacy should never become routine. Our faith should never become routine. No doubt that some discipline is essential on our faith journey. Discipline is also essential to just get up in the morning. We must be motivated to get out of bed. What is our motivation for coming to church? What is our motivation for prayer? Nobody is keeping track. Nobody is going to give us a grade. Our faith is not about rewards and punishments—although that is the system we prefer. Our faith is about a relationship with the person who loves us more than we love ourselves—Jesus Christ. Our whole purpose is to love Him in return. There is no better way than Holy Mass where He becomes part of us and we become part of Him.
We cannot nurture our relationship with the Lord when we feel that we have to be here. The mentality of obligation will destroy any relationship. That’s why forced marriages do not work. People who go to work only to get a paycheck do not last long. Nothing comes out right when there is resentment in our soul. Look at faces. We wear our emotions on our face. Some faces look like they are going to burst out in tears. Others like they have a song to sing. What is the difference? Which would we rather encounter? Everybody has a cross to carry. There are no lives free of problems. We all have difficulties. How we choose to deal with reality is up to us. We are free to see life as a burden or an adventure to be lived.
Every day there is something to celebrate and something to lament. However, we choose on which to focus. Negativity is very popular. Jesus challenges us to rise above the negativity—to do more—to be more than just what we have been commanded. Consider how different our world would be if every person, or at least the majority would focus on the positive instead of the negative. Some folks say, “I don’t know why my spouse doesn’t want to come to Mass, or my children, or my neighbors.” “Perhaps if they saw what a difference coming to Mass makes in your life, they might come.” Starts by being more than an APW—apathetic pew warmer—means that we use our gifts to serve. Every parish is a community—a family. We do not come to be entertained. (We can certainly find better ways to be entertained.). We come to participate. That’s why we come prepared, having read and prayed the Readings at home. That’s why we get involved in ministry, both inside and outside of these walls. That’s why we live the words we say during Holy Mass, particularly forgiveness. Our faith is not about doing the minimum—what we have been commanded to do. Our faith is always about wanting more. There is no graduation in the faith. Not even the Holy Father can say that he’s “made it”. He is the servant of the servants of God.
That’s our vocation—to serve, not because we have to—but because we want to be like Christ.