Today, there are a lot of people who have left the Church, who no longer attend Mass. Some are disgruntled over personal reasons, some have left because they have been mislead doctrinally, and still others were never properly catechized. People were never really given the truth of the Faith.
The other day, I spoke with a gentleman who had not been to Mass for some time. He said that he has wanted to go back but his wife has been resistant. They had lost a son due to an automobile accident and they have for years blamed God. I had the chance to encourage him to turn to the Lord, that Jesus is the one who has won the victory. After several minutes he was hopeful that he would soon be coming home to the Catholic Faith.
Going to Mass each weekend, hopefully more often than that, we might through our participation in the Mass, be an encouragement to anyone that sits near us who might be having problems in their life, maybe they might be troubled and for them, this might be their last Mass. For a long time I have said that Judas was the first to leave Mass early, what is even worse is Judas never returned for any future Mass.
Recently, as I was driving on Redstone Arsenal Army Base located at Huntsville Alabama, as I was showing my ID to a guard at the gate entrance, I asked the guard if he was looking forward to next Sunday. He looked at me kind of puzzled asking me what was happening next Sunday. I responded that next Sunday was Palms Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. The Guard thought about that a second and responded back to me that he had not practiced Lent for many years. As cars were beginning to come in behind me, all I could do was encourage him to come home to his holy Catholic Faith. Then I drove on leaving him behind. All I could hope is that in that moment I was able to plant a seed.
While I was at the Commissary at Redstone, I spoke with a lady who told me that she use to be Catholic, her father was still a strong Catholic involved with his Parish. This lady married a man who is Eastern Orthodox. I was able to explain to her the schism beginning in 1054. I shared with her John 21: 1-14 showing that the 153 fish represented every tongue, nation, and people of the earth. I related the one net representing one faith. I also explained to her that John 21:15-19 Jesus is installing St. Peter as the Shepherd of the Sheep, preparing Peter for the Keys promised in Matthew 16:18-19. Finally, I encouraged her to call her dad and tell him she loves him… Dads like that sort of thing. This was very positive and I hope again, I planted seeds.
I have literally spoken with thousands of people over the years, many of them have returned home to the Catholic Faith. Those situations where I had brief encounters, I can only hope that seeds were planted. I recall a verse coming from John 19:28, “After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” Jesus is thirsting for souls to come and receive him in the Eucharist. Like the woman caught in adultery, Jesus wants to forgive you and make you whole.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a Catholic, he was a Notre Dame graduate who now lives in Huntsville. He told me that he was a Catholic on Christmas and Easter. That led to a discussion where I wanted to share with him the importance of the Eucharist. I asked him if he was married and he said yes. I then asked him what he would think should his Spouse tell him from now on they would get intimate maybe once or twice a year, your birthday, your anniversary, your choice. What would you think about that? He began to understand where I was coming from, that is what we are literally saying to Jesus. When you receive the Eucharist today, you are renewing the Covenant with Our Lord who is thirsting for you. Jesus loves you!
These experiences recall a very important encounter I had with the Lord through a dream:
“One particular dream had the greatest impact on me. After a major debate in the room where I took on a number of those attacking the Catholic Church, I went to bed troubled. I slept hard, but I dreamed that God’s Church, the Catholic Church, was dead. I felt such despair, and sadness I began to cry. I felt that the Church was in ruins and that Christ was shedding tears for His Body, the Church. I never felt such anguish, I cried so much that I woke up out of my sleep totally wet from crying. My pillow, the bed, and the blankets were all wet. I sat up as it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was a dream. I recalled my Confirmation that took place in Blue Springs Mo on September 23, 1968 by Bishop Sullivan. I renewed my vows and told the Lord that I will be a soldier for Him. I will not betray Him and leave the Church even when people around me do. I will do my best to remain loyal and stand for Him. A promise that I have tried to keep since 1978″.
Have you seen the movie, “The Passion Of The Christ”? During the night of the betrayal, Mel Gibson presents the scene showing what that night felt like. It was dark, the moon giving some glimpse of light, but the feeling of evil was everywhere, the Son of Man was turned over to sinful men. As Judas betrayed Jesus, so does every Catholic who renounces the faith. It may not have that feeling of terrible darkness, but for that person who might be sitting near you at Mass, this might be their last Mass. Jesus said “I Thirst”.
I once asked a group at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Canyon Texas, not far from Amarillo, if they knew anyone who had left the Church, family, friends, and just about everyone raised their hands indicating yes. From a medical position, I would see this as an epidemic. From another medical truth, most of the time a person develops hearing loss, they may not experience pain, some might have noticeable Tinnitus, but there is no noticeable pain. You go get a hearing test for a physical and find that you have hearing loss. Likewise, many times we feel no pain losing their faith. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a handshake.
As Catholic parents, Apologists, Catholic leaders, teachers, we need to recognize that all of us plays a vital role as missionaries. Not only in far away lands, but even our homes and communities. With our faithfulness to Christ, we become our Lord’s feet when we go where He calls us to go, we become His hands when we do what he calls us to do, and we become His voice when we proclaim his Word. If the Lord will leave the 99 to go after those who have gone astray, should that also be part of what we do?
For me, it is a sad thing that anyone would have a last Mass, I want to help them when I have the opportunity the Lord gives me to encourage them to come back to the Vineyard, to be restored to the vine where Mass becomes central in everyone’s life. As Jesus Thirsts for souls, we should be willing to love them back. You do not always have to know all the right answers, you don’t even always have to be perfect. Mother Teresa once said that the Lord isn’t looking for our success as much as He is seeking our faithfulness. The Church is like a spiritual hospital where we can take a spiritual bath, we can get cleaned up from all the mess around us.
Dear St. Monica, troubled wife and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime. Yet, you never despaired or lost faith. With confidence, persistence, and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius, and your beloved son, Augustine; your prayers were answered. Grant me that same fortitude, patience, and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for
(Mention your intention here.)
and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.