Stop going church — Getting nothing out of it?

January 9, 2017 at 8:02 am Leave a comment

Stopping going to church mainly because we are getting nothing out of it may indicate that we have missed the point of our faith.

In the course of my encounters with friends and parishioners in general, one of the very common laments I get is that some of them have friends or family members who have stopped going to church on a regular basis.  Some Catholic parents here in Singapore have had children who had gone overseas for their education, and after having spent a couple or more years overseas on their own, stopped going to Sunday Mass.  One of the more common reasons given is that the Masses there do not ‘do’ anything for them.  Apparently, the homilies given at some churches overseas are “simply not appealing”.

Let me begin by saying that I understand where this is coming from.  It is predicated on the way that the world works, where things are good and pursued in life based on the fundamental importance that it has to benefit me.  In the realm of the spiritual life, it’s like a person who says about meditation “ok, I’ll try it and I’ll see if there’s anything in it for me.”  Most, if not all people will take this approach in their choice of career or jobs.  There’s nothing pointedly wrong about this and I do believe that if there is drudgery in one’s job or activity, sooner or later, one will begin looking askance at why one is doing it at all.  The problem begins when one takes this dictum into the life of faith and the practice of religion.

Mass and worship is fundamentally not predicated on our preferences and ourselves.  When we go to church, we worship and we pray not for ourselves principally, but for God.  God and his sovereignty has to be the rationale for our worship simply because we believe that he has made all things possible, and continues to make all things possible.  To put it crudely, it matters not one bit if we get anything out of it.  We make a decision to worship and pray to God and that in and of itself makes the entire act valuable because it is a decision to love.

Let me explain – There are many married couples in the world that have not had any good ‘feelings’ in their married life, and have stayed in the marriage out of a choice.  They base their fidelity to marriage on a choice that they make, on a decision to love, rather than on the good feelings and sentiments that are strong in courtship and the early period of marital life.  The promise to love “in good times AND in bad” is predicated on this decision to love.  Their decision to love despite the feelings and sentiments raises the value of their marital love to a level that is much higher than merely a response to something that benefits them individually.  A choice to love thus is value adding.  Now take this to our practice of religion and worship.  They share a similar reasoning and credo.

Too many of our life’s problems stem from an over emphasis on the demands made by the self.  They often stress on one’s personal rights and some form of self-promotion.  Whence do we find the panacea to this disease that plagues humanity right down to its core?  The Christian response to this question is the practice of dying to the self.

If we understand this in a healthy way, worshipping well does benefit us in the end.  Theologically, we say that God is perfect, and this means that nothing we can do adds to God’s perfection.  Our worshipping him does not ‘benefit’ him per se, but as the Eucharistic Preface IV states, “Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace” – meaning that all goodness that we give to God redounds back to us.  So, even if we think that “we get nothing out of Mass”, we are sadly mistaken.  Even in a passive way, it does benefit us tremendously.  But if we are fully aware and conscious of our acts in worship, the value becomes infinitely greater.

Undoubtedly, we get our direction and example par excellence of selflessness in Jesus Christ himself who lived a fully selfless and others-centered life.  It is when we really understand this that we will worship and pray with the right motivation and intention, no longer just for ourselves and what we are able to get out of it.  When worshipping for God’s sake becomes the main reason for our religious practices, we learn to tame the ego and slowly become less filled with a sense of self-importance.

When the individual becomes convinced that selflessness is the seedbed of real harmony and peaceful living, it makes real the last line of the song “Let there be peace on earth” where it ends with “and let it begin with me”.

Many resolutions would have been made as we crossed over into 2017.  Would worshipping well be on any of your lists?

Have a blessed New Year!

Posted by Fr Luke Fong at 6:00 AM

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Entry filed under: Inspiring Faith.

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