If you think about the Church over the past several decades, you will realize one disturbing trend related to weekly attendance. It’s decreasing. In a majority of Catholic Churches around the world, the number of people attending weekly Mass is becoming less and less. But as I’ve looked into this a bit (admittedly not through extensive research), this trend in deceasing attendance in various Christian and non-Christian worship services impacts many different types of congregations.
This is not a phenomenon that is found solely in the Catholic tradition. Sadly, most organized religions are experiencing a similar decline in participation. As I look around our own parish, I see many, many very faithful people who are attending Mass on almost a weekly basis. Since we are creatures of habit, we tend to sit in the same general areas of the church each week.
So, as I serve at the altar, it is quite easy to recognize many fellow parishioners typically attending the same Mass time each week and sitting in the same general area. I always find it to be a blessing to celebrate the Eucharist with so many of you each week. At the same time, I can look around the church and see that many people who once celebrated with us on a regular basis are no longer attending. I realize that some families have moved away from our area and others are celebrating in surrounding parishes. But I have also come to the realization that some individuals and families have simply stopped attending Mass on a regular basis. This saddens me. But I pray that whatever has drawn them away from the Church will be reconciled and that they choose to return to the Church. I’m certain that the father in today’s Gospel (Luke 15:1- 32) prayed for both of his sons: the one who remained by his side as well as the one who “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.” I suspect that his prayers for his son who wandered away from him included prayers for his safety, well-being, and possibly a safe return home. He loved both of his sons but knew that he had to allow them to live their own lives and make their own decisions. Just because his son was squandering his money and living a life of sin, his love for him never wavered. This is why he was so pleased to see him when his son returned home. Upon his return, the father cried out, “he was lost and has been found.” For anyone who has wandered away from the Church and is no longer being an active participant in their faith, God loves each of them. He loves all of us regardless of our Mass attendance or not. If we actively participate in our faith on a weekly basis, God loves us. But He also loves those who have been lost. But He allows us to live our own lives and make our own decisions. We need to hold all of our fellow brothers and sisters in
Christ in our prayers. We need to pray that those who have fallen away from active participation find their way back to the Church. And when they do, we need to celebrate their return with prayers, songs, and welcoming. For any of us could be lost and any of us could be found.
Blessings, Deacon Steve
He Would Love First!
October 24, 2020
A July Faith Formation Series – Part IV – APOSTOLIC