The Diocese of Cheyenne claims to have 55,000 registered Catholics. Great! A recent estimate from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) states that if we included all the non-registered, self-identifying Catholics, the total Catholic population would be more like 110,000. Another statistic reveals that on any given Sunday, we average around 16,600 Catholics attending Mass. Not so great.
Those simple statistics beg the question: “What is at the heart of the life of a believer?” The simple answer is Jesus Christ. We do not fit God into our life. God is the Center around Whom we build our life. We ask: “What is God’s priority for my life?”
It is no secret that the culture and world around us are becoming more and more secular. What that means is the world wants less to do with faith and morals, and is far more interested in rampant individualism, which pretty much allows people to define truth for themselves; and that is called relativism. In such a world, people of faith will experience greater resistance and even persecution. In such an atmosphere, there is a daily temptation to lower one’s own moral standard in order to live with less tension with the surrounding world. What is one to do?
Clearly, the believer needs to have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. We as Catholics need to be consciously aware of the calling each of us received in Baptism to be members of Christ’s body, and sharers in his Divine Life. When Christ shares his life with us in Baptism, he also promises to remain with us, and to continually nourish his life within us. He does this through the Church, and especially through the Sacraments, and most especially through the Eucharist.
I am asking all of us to a humble, honest examination of life by prayerfully wrestling with this question: “Who or what is at the center of my life?” If our answer is Jesus Christ, then what is the evidence? How frequently do I receive the Eucharist or celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation? How often do I pray? How well do I know my faith? Do I know the Ten Commandments and strive to live by them? How do I treat my neighbor and family members? How do I utilize my free time? How do I spend my money? Do I acknowledge that everything I have is a gift from God? Do I show my gratitude to God by sharing with the Church and others what he has blessed me with?
Since Jesus Christ is the center of life for every believer, the life of Christ within us is what needs to be nourished. The most powerful way Christ gives himself to us for such nourishment is in and through the Eucharist. “Jesus said to them: ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” (John 6:35) The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council teaches:
Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper. (Paragraph #10)
The things of this world, and certainly the values of the world, can never grant satisfaction and peace. Only Christ, only his Church, and only his teaching leads to the fullness of life. Through the Liturgy of the Church, Christ’s saving action continues. Since Christ is at the center of the life of the believer, then necessarily the Church is the center, because Christ and his Church are One. With this understanding of Christ and his Church, the believer more quickly comes to see the importance of regular reception of Christ’s Body and Blood at every celebration of the Eucharist. The Sunday Mass (and even more frequent participation at daily Mass) no longer becomes merely an obligation, but becomes the desire of any and all who have fallen in love with Christ.
Such a conscious and loving desire to receive Christ at every Eucharist will also have a strong influence on how we celebrate the Mass. Every priest will be more conscious of his role in presiding over the Eucharist in a reverent manner and delivering substantial and meaningful homilies. Parishes will dedicate appropriate resources to properly train musicians and all liturgical ministers. And everyone in attendance at Mass will come “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:17)
God has provided us with all we need in His Son, Jesus Christ. God desires much from us; in living holy lives, building the Kingdom, and obtaining the fullness of the Kingdom at the end of our days. But in all of this, we will forever falter and fall short on our own steam. Let us put Christ at the center of our life, for He has given us a share in His ministry and given us the great commission to proclaim Him to the world. “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” (Philippians 4:13)
The strength and power of Christ are ours in and through the Sacred Liturgy. Let us be true believers, who place Christ at the center of our life. As true believers, nourish the life of Christ within us through a faithful, joyful and regular participation in the Sunday Eucharist. Fall in love with Christ. With Christ at the center of our life, our Head and Foundation, we will bear much fruit in this life, and reap the eternal rewards of eternal life in the presence of the Lamb who was slain, that we might gain this unmerited benefit.0