I think we have put God in a box.
Mass is live-streamed or is a shortened and out of the normal order Mass outside. Faith Formation for children and adults at the parish has stopped. Emails and Zoom sessions have taken the place of in-person sessions. Our Parish Office, Faith Formation Office and Youth Ministry Office are all closed to in-person interactions. Many feel lost, as if not just churches are closed, but that God is not accessible because churches are closed. I have been seeing disturbing posts on Facebook that call our pastors, bishops and Archbishop names because they are not opening the churches or are taking our rights to live our faith away.
I think the truth is we have put God in a box. Yes, our churches are sacred places where we gather out of the desire for God's presence. Many of the important times of our lives are celebrated in church. Baptisms, when we celebrate becoming members of the Body of Christ, forever Christian. First Communion, when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ and are united to Jesus so that we can then bring Him out to the world. Confirmation, when we complete our Baptism and strengthen our bond with Christ, His Church and are sealed with His Holy Spirit as we live our faith. Weddings when we fall in love and consecrate ourselves to each other and God. Even funerals when we die and our life is celebrated as we enter eternity. Some are blessed to grow in their relationship with Jesus through participating in Mass daily, where He is present in the Word and in the Eucharist. Some are blessed to grow in their relationship with Jesus through time before Him in Eucharistic Adoration at church.
But is that all there is to God and our relationship with Him? Is the Catholic Church with a capital C only the building we gather in for these times in our life? Is God only truly present at these times in the church?
There are so many times in Scripture when there are catastrophic things happening with great suffering and it seems God is not present. Then as you continue to read His presence is there in an unexpected way. Look at how Jesus came, the Son of God yet born in a dirty, smelly stable or cave where animals were kept. On Christmas cards it is pictured so beautifully but think about the reality of it! There are places in the United States where the church is only open once a month for Mass when a priest can come. There are places around the world where there are no churches and people cannot go to Mass. Does this mean God is less present to these people? Remember all that Jesus did and said, shocking people who thought they knew God and knew the ways to worship Him - completely out of the box.
Because we are living during the pandemic of COVID-19, we are being challenged to live our faith differently. I think this is an important time in the history of the Catholic Church. God is calling us to let Him out of the box we have put Him in. There is profound beauty, wisdom and life in Catholicism and in His Church that we need to focus on now. We need to see the small box we have put God in and be open to the revelation and presence of God outside that box.
I hear the call from God to go back to the Domestic Church and let Him bless us there. In the Domestic Churches of our home we first experience and learn of God's love through the love of our parents, our siblings, our family. We learn sacrifice, forgiveness and caring for others in our family life. Stories of our faith are read in children's Bibles, children’s books of saints and are told by our parents and grandparents. Jesus comes to life as we pray the Rosary together in our homes, reflecting on the Mysteries as we pray. Holiness permeates the simple daily duties of care within the home like doing laundry, dishes and other chores for each other.
I hear the call from God to remember Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ question about what the greatest commandment is. Not only are we to love God with all our heart, soul and mind but we are to love our neighbor as our self. It seems the Common Good is the only thing that is going to end this pandemic. Wearing a mask is for the Common Good, setting our own comfort aside and doing it for the Common Good. That is a holy thing. Limiting doing the things we are used to going out to do and social distancing when we have to go out is for the Common Good. It seems life became something that revolves around me - personal comfort, fast service, delivery now, accountability replaced by blaming, whatever is easiest. This is the opposite of what Jesus said is the Greatest Commandment.
In Article 9, number 748 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church is described as, "The Church has no other light than Christ's; according to a favorite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun."
It is impossible to put the sun in a box. The same is true for God and His Catholic Church. Let's chose to hear His calls to take Him out of the box and let Him shine in new ways in our lives.