My daughter plays basketball. Sometimes, we muster up the energy to bring everyone to the game to watch. When we bustle through the door to find our seats, all ten of us watching, her reaction is easily worth a three pointer. She doesn’t demand that we all come, she understands that some may have homework and others activities that mean we can’t, but when it happens, there is a joy that can’t be measured in just her smile. It’s a compelling argument for never missing another game.

For Catholics, going to weekly mass is an obligation. Christ must have a similar reaction of great joy, like the Father in the Prodigal son, spotting us as we struggle to get shoes on feet and out the door, knowing that we’re coming. We come to help each other bear our crosses, those gifts of suffering that will burn away from us with God’s grace, all that keeps us from Christ. It is a great gift, that we are allowed to receive our Lord each time we go to mass, by acknowledging our own unworthiness to ever share in His presence. We come to witness to ourselves and to each other. We come to provide and gather courage and comfort from and for our community, though no one necessarily shares their private crosses in the process. The Eucharist unites us.

It’s a great Catholic thing, that we have this Eucharist. When we stand in the receiving line to partake in this banquet, look at the parish. The people who come to pay witness, to pray, bring their crosses, some of which can be seen etched in their bodies, and others, in their faces. Every one of us carries a cross. Every one of us knows the weight and size of our own, and in some cases, can see others whose burdens seem far heavier. We should pray for whomever we view as having a heavier problem. It will make our own lighter still.

This does not negate the reality of suffering and struggling that take place moment to moment. This person has a sister who suffers from Cancer. That person is estranged from his wife. The couple sitting over there weeps and prays for a child. The man who just walked in late is struggling with alcoholism. That family just lost their grandfather and the woman in front of them, lost her job. There are countless stories in a single mass of people needing Christ, being part of the 5000 that came to be fed and have their spirits as aussaged by His words, His deeds, His love.

But we do not simply come to provide and receive comfort, but to become more like Christ. We come to be perfected, to be challenged, to be taught and to be made more like the selves God knows we could be, if only we would cling to Him. Coming to mass is clinging to Christ. Coming weekly, we may feel ourselves farther away than ever before. We’re not. We’re only coming to recognize how estranged we are from our God by our own sinfulness in those moments. It was pride before that made us think we had a leg up on others in our relationship with God. We are each of us imperfect servants. We come to mass to get instruction, to hear the Master’s will that we might attempt to fulfill His commands.

So the next time the sun is glinting and beckoning on a Sunday to tempt you with the possibility of a morning working the garden or a lazy extra hour sleep, remember that with Christ, life is a surprisingly light burden no matter what the trials, and get to mass anyway. You’re worth the trip, and so is Christ’s smile.

Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti