Making the most of our investment



“We have to engage our will and actively participate in what Jesus is doing” (Father Mark Toups).

Last weekend Will, Louis and their cousin Gabriel spent the night. On Sunday morning, Jim and I practiced the day’s readings as we were lectors. We then invited the boys to read the Gospel. They did.

Later at church, I noticed how intently the cousins were following in the Missalette as Father proclaimed the Word. That incident reminded me of a line from a priest’s homily years ago. “People don’t attend a concert without knowing the music. Why do they arrive at church without knowing the Sunday Scriptures?” The thought struck a chord.

As a family, we need to be intentional in our preparation for Mass. Using the upcoming readings as a meal or night prayer is an easy opportunity to begin. Invite comments and questions. Perhaps predict what the priest might include in his homily. As adults, we can share one way we personally relate to the Scripture.

We are eager for our children to achieve success in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. To aid them in their aspirations, we run car pools; help them study for tests; and invest in equipment. Isn’t it even more important that we assist them in attaining life’s ultimate goal — heaven?! Let’s direct our energies to opening their hearts to the joy of the Sacraments and the Mass.

I recently completed a Lenten study, “The Ascension Lenten Companion: A Personal Encounter with the Power of the Gospel.” That book-retreat brought the above idea to the forefront. Each week, we began by reading the three Sunday Scriptures. Daily, Father Mark Toups, the author, reflected on a specific line from the Gospel and suggested a coordinating Scripture reading. When our group met, I was intrigued by the various connections women had to God’s Word.

Because Sunday readings are on a three-year cycle, we can become ho hum to the messages. However, similar to reading the same book at different periods of life, my perspective often changes. We can imagine ourselves in the story. Is there a particular character to whom we relate, sympathize with or even dislike? Is there a line that seems unnecessary, out of place or confusing? Or, does a word or phrase speak to our current situation?

The more thoughtfully I reflect on God’s Word, the more convinced I am that no word written is without meaning. Understanding customs and symbols of Jesus’ time is also beneficial, and can often be gleaned from the homily or additional reflections on the Scriptures. The details are significant!

For instance, in the story of Lazarus, Jesus says, “Take away the stone” (Jn 11:39).  At first hearing, it seems expected. Yet, think about it. Jesus is God. He has the opportunity to display his power once again. However, He tells bystanders to move the stone. Why? Jesus is testing their faith. Do these people trust Him enough to risk the possible stench and tragedy if He isn’t who He claims to be?

In another story, the Pharisees bring an adulteress to Jesus and ask Him what should be done. At that critical moment, Jesus bends down and appears to be doodling in the dust. The question that usually surfaces is: What was He writing? A reflection in “The Word Among Us: Praying with Jesus This Lent,” March 27, states, “It seems that the time Jesus bent over … gave everyone time to reflect, and diffused a charged situation.”  Wow!  I thought the mystery lay in what Jesus wrote. In fact, that was of little consequence. The writer went on to show Jesus’ behavior as a model for our own tense situations.

Our benefit from Mass depends much more on our willingness to personally invest than it does on the homily or the music. The Mass is the most powerful, life-altering prayer offered in our Catholic Church. It is full of mystery and wonder, and endures for a lifetime. As my father wisely told me when I was leaving for college, “You get out of life what you put into it.” His advice also rings true of the Mass.