I recently completed reading from a book-length essay on the topic of Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age. On more than one occasion, the author brings up the concept of the sacramental worldview, a view which looks beyond what it seen to what is unseen but still is very much real. In fact, those unseen realities hold the first place in the Christian vision, things such as God, angels, human souls, and Heaven. Unfortunately, the author notes that the predominant modern vision is just the opposite – all that really matters is what is seen, what we can grasp in the here and now. Resulting from this is an overemphasis on physical appearance, comfort, success, reputation, and having as many fun and interesting experiences as possible.
If this is true (and I think we can probably agree that it is), then we should not be surprised by recent survey results that report that a large percentage of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. If we do not look at the Eucharist through a sacramental worldview, believing that behind what we see is something much greater, then all we see is a symbol. And if all we see is a symbol with no deeper reality, then what is the big deal about going to Mass? It can turn into only seeking that which is seen (or heard), and we judge our experience of the Mass on those things. If the homily was too long, or uninteresting, we walk away disappointed. If the temperature in the church was not to our liking, we walk away disappointed. Never mind that the greatest miracle possible has just taken place in front of us, namely, Jesus Christ taking flesh in the form of bread and wine! Not only that, He allows us to consume His very being as we receive Him in Holy Communion. If we truly approached Mass with that sacramental worldview, I can guarantee that we would not be disappointed, because the Lord will always satisfy our deepest longings if we but open the eyes of our soul.
While our focus in not necessarily the Eucharist this month, I wanted to use it as an example of how a sacramental worldview (or lack thereof) has an impact on our lives. All of the sacraments demand that worldview, to see beyond just the symbol and to grasp in faith the powerful working of Jesus in an invisible, though very real way. While there is progress to be made, there are real signs of hope in our Cathedral parish. As you may know, October is a month when we count the number of people at each Mass. I have been pleasantly surprised to see that number increasing from week to week, a trend which I hope will continue. We have also seen a consistent stream of penitents coming to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to seek God’s pardon and peace. I know that I speak for all of the priests here that this brings us great joy, for to witness the powerful gift of God’s mercy in a person’s life is a true blessing, one we are privileged to be a part of as Christ’s human instruments.
Let us all pray that the Lord will open the eyes and ears of our souls to grasp the beauty of His working in us and though us in the sacraments, and indeed in every aspect of our lives.