Yesterday, I had an awful experience at Church. I wrote about it in another post, but there is one problem with the post about one instance. It is not just this one church, or this one type of incident. I have been treated this way over and over and over again at different times throughout my life, and I am not the only one. One day I will tell the story of trying to stay Catholic after a miscarriage in a pro-life environment, it was not easy. I have watched as Catholics fall away because they can’t handle fear over every single action they ever do, or they are sick of the guilt, or they feel like God hates them until they leave. Many Catholics will jump on anything to guilt you, or talk about sin, or God’s anger. It took me a long time to realize how scared we all are. Many Catholics are not being taught a merciful and loving God, they are learning about His anger, and desire for them to follow all the rules perfectly, and how they have to manage to make up for all of their sins.
This is not Jesus. Jesus cared about good works, yes. He cared about doing the right thing and following the law. More than that though, he cared about LOVE. He wanted us to be kind and merciful to each other. He did tell the adulterous woman not to sin anymore, but He also drew a line in the sand so they wouldn’t stone her. Over and over again, He hears the pain of His people and answers them. Over and over again, He tells us to be like little children and to come to Him, and condemns those who would hurt children.
Yesterday I was also told about a church that held a special kids service with a milder version of everything that happens at the Good Friday service with some visuals and extra stimulation built in to keep them interested. It was held earlier than the actual Good Friday service, so it was not a replacement for it, but an addition. Catholics responding to the post over and over again condemned them for “dumbing” down the liturgy for the children. Over and over again they said that people don’t understand that the Mass as it is offered is good enough.
It is so frustrating for me that churches are condemned anytime they try to do anything to make people feel at home at church. It’s almost like the goal is to be as impersonal and unrelatable as possible and then make you feel bad for not wanting to participate. When did Jesus ever do this? I am not saying that the Catholic Church’s rituals and sacramentals and everything are not valuable, but Jesus did not force people to sit, stand, kneel in a hot room listening to a language they didn’t understand for an hour or more. The most common response to any complaint about Mass is that, “It’s not about how you feel.”
But…I mean…isn’t it though? If it is meant to be a time when we are united with Christ, shouldn’t how we feel matter too? In sex, do we yell at the woman if she wants to feel good too? (Oh, wait, we totally do. That’s a whole other problem in itself.) We are so busy beating ourselves up for wanting our needs and wants to get met, and proclaiming how they don’t matter, no wonder we all think God doesn’t care about our emotions. But Jesus did. He fed the hungry people. He met their needs when they came to see Him. The first Mass was a goodbye meal with Him and His friends.
I can hear the argument about how we are re-enacting the Crucifixion, and suffering is ok. We are not re-enacting the Crucifixion, we are REMEMBERING it. He asked us to REMEMBER it. We are making Him present to us, because He asked us to. It is not just the Crucifixion we should be experiencing, but the Resurrection, and Jesus’ intimacy with us, as well. I do believe Jesus is actively and actually present in the Eucharist, but we do not worship the Crucifixion, but we act like we do sometimes.
My point is that Catholics have been taught that how they feel, and what they want doesn’t matter, but it does. Jesus loves us, and cares for us as people. He wants us to be happy. He allows us to suffer, sometimes, but that is not what He wants, it is just what happens sometimes. The Church is FOR us, not just for Him. He put it in place to care for us, to be among us forever, not to condemn us, not to “grasp” at perfection, but to strive for it instead.
I keep thinking of the quote, “We are a Resurrection people, and Hallelujah is our song.” Stop living like we a Crucifixion people. Yes, it is important, yes, it is part of our faith, but it is NOT the end of the story.