If nothing bad happens, it’s OK … right?

By Brenda Hopf

Recently, as I was looking through some memorabilia, I came across a picture that reminded me of a trip taken many moons ago with some friends to visit another friend who was in college. I do not remember all the details of that evening, but there is one thing I will never forget.

Shortly before curfew, a few of our group left the dorm room for a little road trip. The next thing we knew, those who had left returned wide-eyed and a bit shaken as they told us the driver had driven the car the wrong way down a one-way street as a shortcut in an effort get back before curfew. Luckily, nothing bad had happened and all was well. Or was it?

Isn’t this how we live much of our lives? If we can find a shortcut, we are inclined to take it. And if nothing bad happens, then it’s okay, right? Or is it?

As I thought about this, I began to wonder what we might have missed by taking shortcuts? Did we miss seeing an old friend or lose out on the opportunity to do an act of kindness for a stranger? Did we skip visiting a relative in the nursing home or fail to make a phone call to a lonely neighbor? Did we overlook an inspiring Christian witness because we were too busy planning our next shortcut? But it’s okay because nothing bad has happened, right? Or has it?

As we come to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday, I believe there are times when we carry this shortcut mentality right through the doors of the church and into the pew. With childlike impatience, we begin our wish list of shortcuts. Did they really have to sing that extra verse to the opening song for Mass? Our hearts sink when we see this Sunday is one of those long gospels. We get fidgety if we feel the homily has gone past our time limit. And why did Father pick that long Eucharistic Prayer again? Then, after Communion, we are supposed to spend some silent time with Jesus; instead, all we can think is why are we still sitting here? I am not saying this happens every Sunday, and maybe there are some people who really have it all together and never think this way; but if we are totally honest, I venture to say that the majority of us have had these or similar thoughts at one time or another during the celebration of the Eucharist. Distracted by our shortcut mentality, what have we missed? But it’s okay because nothing bad has happened, right? Or has it?

Sent forth do our work as missionary disciples of Jesus, we pass through the doors of church with a sigh of relief. Then, we begin to plan our next shortcut rather than digging into the mystery of faith we have just celebrated.

How often do we view the dismissal at the end of Sunday Mass as the beginning of our prep for next Sunday’s liturgy? If we did, would we still take all the shortcuts we do throughout the week? What might we see or experience each week if we made a conscious effort to tame our shortcut mentality? Surely, we would be more inclined to honor our commitment of missionary discipleship if we made an effort to change our way of thinking. What difference might that make as we enter church on the following Sunday, dipping our fingers into the holy water, conscious of our baptismal promises as we sign ourselves with the cross? As we genuflect to Jesus in the tabernacle and enter our pew, would we be more inclined to submit ourselves to God’s will and enter into the mystery we are about to celebrate?

I dare say we will never know what a difference it might bring about until we make a conscious effort to curb our shortcut mentality. Dismissed from Mass to answer our call to missionary discipleship, there are no shortcuts to next Sunday.

Brenda Hopf is the RCIA Coordinator at Divine Mercy Parish.