Doing things together: it is one of the greatest casualties of our over-personalized, instant-access, and virtually-connected culture. I spend a lot of time at my desk, and thus in front of my screen, and it is truly amazing how much I can accomplish through it. I think most of us take advantage of this to arrange things to our maximum convenience.
This morning I bought something I read about the paper, but I did it online, so I didn’t go to the store. So I didn’t run into any parishioners. And I didn’t have one of those conversations with the store staff that can happen when I am dressed in my clerics. I will get my “stuff,” l; but with no human contact at all.
An opposite example was Sunday evening, when I went over to the home of some friends to watch the Super Bowl. I hadn’t watched more than 30 minutes of NFL football all season, but I looked forward to this. It was more engaging to watch with somebody, more than because it was a better football game than recent Super Bowls have been. We talked about the game, and laughed about it, and also talked about all sorts of other things. I even got in a little “business” conversation right as the Patriots started climbing out of their hole. It was not a conversation I would have been able to have by email or letter, either.
This is a gathering I go to almost every year. There are folks there, friends of our hosts, whom I only see once each year. But because we do this together, we have built up a friendly relationship. I look forward to the Super Bowl principally because we do it together!
That value, I think, contributes to the high price of the advertising time: not only is the audience numerically huge, but also it is together, talking about that they are watching. That multiplies the impact and the value of what they are watching -- even the commercials.
Interesting, isn’t it, that the union of God with Man in Jesus Christ is made available only by doing it together. You can’t get it by phone, letter, or email; there is no web interface with the Living God. There is no home delivery or takeout, except for the sick and homebound, and even then He comes in the hands of another member of the Body. No UPS guy, no drone will bring Jesus to your door.
So when you come for Jesus, there you are, together with all these others. Many are regulars; some you’ve known for years, with others you have a nodding acquaintance. Some are strangers, passing through. Some are in-between. If “diversity” is as good a thing as the talkers would have us believe, you won’t find more of it anywhere than you do at a Catholic Sunday Mass! But there is also more, there is commonality, and there builds the communion.
When Mass lets out at our parish, all that togetherness, with God and one another, spills out into the yard and is a thing to behold. It is one of the only places, if not the only place, where ages and generations mix freely and well beyond the structures of family gatherings. Somebody else’s grandma, somebody else’s toddler, all get the same regard and response that they would merit if they were family. And that makes for health and happiness that cannot be imposed by any external structure or governance.
Our obligations and our interests in these times pull us apart. Aware of this pull, it is wise to renew the commitment to the one activity that makes it possible to be ourselves: being united with God in the holy sacraments. God puts a value on our doing things, His things, together – and so should we.