What Do We Bring to the Lord?
Here at St. Ignatius we have very beautiful liturgies. We have six weekend Masses, all with the same readings and prayers, most with the same music, yet each with a different flavor. The 4 o’clock Saturday Mass has a mixture of retirees and families with young children. The people at this liturgy tend to sing their heads off. A lot of them can’t hear what they are singing, but they are exuberant. At 6:30 we have a Mass with our Youth Choir. The people at this Mass are more relaxed than the Sunday morning folk. The music is often meditative. The people respond by being very prayerful. The early bird special on Sunday morning at 7:30 has a certain freshness about it. Many of the people at this liturgy are determined to start their Sunday off with early prayer. The 9 o’clock Mass has the children’s focus, the children’s story and children’s choir. Anything goes with the children. Sometimes there are so many babies at that Mass that I think the people without the babies should go to the cry room. The 11:30 Mass has our SATB choir. This is what used to be called the “high Mass.” It certainly is our most formal Mass. It has a marvelous reverence about it. Then we have the Life Teen Mass on Sunday evenings at 6:00 pm. Along with the exuberance of the band, the Ignites, and the exuberance of anywhere from 75 to 250 Teens who attend, the Life Teen Mass is an extremely spiritual experience.
The various Masses we have, along with the various styles of the priests and deacons, lead many in our parish to prefer one Mass over another. That’s fine. What is not OK is when people judge a Mass according to this strange criteria: whether they “get anything out it.” I’m sure you hear this quite often. “I get a lot out of this Mass, or when that person is preaching.” or “I really don’t get anything out of it when this person is preaching or at that particular Mass.”
There is a problem with this. We shouldn’t be coming to Mass for what we can get out of it. We should be concerned with what we bring to it. The magi did not travel to find the King of Kings so they could get something out of it. They sought the King of Kings so they could do Him homage and bring Him gifts.
They had it right. As in every other aspect of life, when we are looking to “get”, we receive little. When we are looking to “give” we receive more than we ever expected. The young man or woman who enter a marriage for what they are going to get out of it, will not get much. The young man or woman who enter into a marriage to give of themselves, to express their love for their spouse, will receive more than they could ever imagine. It is the same with the Church. If we are looking to get, there won’t be much there. But if we are concerned with giving, then the Lord will shower us with his gifts.
Like the magi, we come before the Lord with gifts, the gifts of ourselves. We come to do Him homage, to reverence His presence. We come to present Him with our emptiness and humbly ask Him to fill us.
The magi completed a journey that ended in Bethlehem. The only thing we know about them after they visited the Holy Family is that they returned to their native land by a different way, so they would not have to encounter the jealous King
Herod. Still, I think it is fair to assume that they returned to their homelands full of the Love of God.
We also journey. We journey throughout our lives seeking meaning, and fulfillment and love. We seek the One who is the Reason for our Being. We come before Him in His Church, or among His People, including those who need us the most. We journey for new ways to give our God reverence and homage and love. Our gifts are minute: an hour and a half of our day, a portion of our income. We have so little to offer the Lord. He gives us so much more in return.
Back in the olden days, when I was in the college seminary, my course of studies resulted in me studying with three different classes in three different years, including the novitiate year. The third class that I joined would be the class I
would be a member of for the remainder of my college. Many of the people in this class had been together not just in college but even through four years of high school. I felt that I was being pushed aside, excluded from the group. I complained to a friend. He had no sympathy. He simply asked: so what have you give to this class? Why should you expect to take from the class when you have not yet contributed anything to it? He was correct. But there was something I could do. The big sports event of the year was the class track meet, concluded with a cross country run. I knew that I would get killed if I just volunteered to run without much training, so four months before the meet I started training. I did well, the class did well and I was fully accepted.
Whether it is something as inane as being accepted by peers, or as critical to our lives as growing in the Love of the Lord, we should not be concerned with what we are going to receive. We should only be concerned with seeking the Lord, encountering His presence, doing Him homage, and Giving ourselves to Him.
If we follow the magi in this way, then we will be wise women and wise men.