Serious and Humorous Thoughts on Easter Sunday

The church I attended on Sunday was very nice.  Of all the churches I’ve been to, I think I felt most comfortable there.

The pastor who gave the service on Sunday at Saint Frances de Sales Parish on the corner of 96th and Lexington was a man of a booming voice whom God did not bless with a singer’s voice  but expressed his thankfulness for the gift He provided him by singing at the top of his lungs.  The good Lord, though, is fair, and the pastor’s gift in expressing his faith, convictions and frankness touched me.   He was brutally honest–the Church needs money and he expected an offering befitting Easter.  He was funny–he enjoys sprinkling the Holy Water, recounted how a mother insisted her daughter receive a lot of water because she is a teenager, and commented “It is difficult to be a teenage Catholic.”  His faith was unwavering–“Let those who mock us for our beliefs mock, for we know we are saved,” he concluded his sermon.  He is deeply saddened and troubled–he laments the increasing secularism of America–yet is eternally optimistic–“Be happy, smile,” he encouraged us, “It’s Easter.”  His strength and courage are something I need to strive for.

There are two messages that deeply affected me, which is two more than usual.  The first is in the weekly bulletin where he confessed it’s difficult to maintain faith as he goes about his daily life.  It was comforting to know that even a man who has dedicated himself to God since fifth grade can struggle with faith–and that in of itself is a call to God.

The second was from the homily, in which he pointed out that Mary Magdalene, upon seeing the empty tomb, did not understand what happened, but she was nonetheless full of love for Jesus and the Lord.  It was an important message:  you don’t have to understand God–I often don’t–to love–which I can do.

I’m glad I went to service where I went.  On the church’s website, the pastor makes available his weekly thoughts and the church’s weekly bulletin.  Such approachability increases the communal atmosphere of the church.

Incidentally (and this is the humorous part), I’ve been to enough masses to know that a part of the ceremony, which a high school classmate coined the “bite me” part, was skipped.  For those non-Catholics, that’s the part where the priest raises the bread and states, “On the night He [Jesus] was betrayed, He took bread and gave you thanks and praise.  He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it:  this is My body which will be given up for you.”  I was completely caught off guard.  We gave peace to each other and then we went on line to receive the Eucharist.

Speaking of getting caught off guard, I went to Christmas mass at a church in Japan last December and was rather embarrassed.  For a change, this church had the Blood of Christ, which, for some reason, is not commonly offered there.  I took the bread, put it in my mouth, then went to the wine and waited for the girl to hand me the chalice.  And waited.  And waited.  The girl, clearly confused, mumbled something along the lines of “I can’t.  Bread into wine” in Japanese.  I thought for a second and understood: the practice there is to take the bread, soak It in wine in the chalice, and then put It in your mouth.

It would’ve been nice to have this procedure disclosed somewhere since I’ve never it anywhere else before.  And what exactly is the concern?  That they wish to prevent the spreading of some disease that I carry around in my mouth?  Assuming, arguendo, that I have a cold, you’d think the Blood of Christ, which was wine, which is, after all, alcohol, will kill the germs.  And, assuming, arguendo, that I have the Ebola virus too powerful to kill for the Blood of Christ on this mortal earth, if someone got the Ebola virus while taking the Blood of Christ at a church during Christmas, isn’t it possible to say, perhaps, that getting the virus was God’s will?  I was somewhat offended by the whole routine, but hey, it was also humorous.  Remember:  this is a country where it is necessary to constantly remind people during the giving of the Eucharist that you need be a Catholic to receive It.  Apparently this is a common problem in the Land of the Rising Sun (but apparently where great number of non-Catholics attend Catholic mass).


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