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Waiting at the altar

I recently had a Twitter conversation that left me perplexed, at best. A young man whom I do not know was bemoaning the high cost of wedding venues (presumably for the reception). When people chimed in to suggest church social halls and other more affordable sites, he tweeted, “I would literally rather not get married if my only choice are have my reception there or not get married.” (sic)


I looked at the tweet a long time. I wondered if his fiancee’s parents were reading it the same way I was, and justifiably were concerned about his commitment to their daughter. Finally, I decided that I was most certainly missing something, but I’d ask him to clarify, just for the benefit of confused bystanders. I replied to him, “Literally? Really?”


And he quickly tweeted, “Yes.”


As I sat on my hands, I thought about the possibilities. First, I hoped his fiancée was not on Twitter. Then, I thought maybe he didn’t know the meaning of “literally.” Finally, I decided to hope the exchange was nothing more than one of the many times someone from Generation X has misunderstood a millennial on social media. My own house full of millennials assured me that it was, though none of them could articulate the intended meaning.


Still, the exchange got me thinking. It reminded me of the reasons people offer for missing Mass.


“I don’t like the building. It’s ugly and I can’t concentrate there.”


“I feel out of place. There’s no sense of community.”


“The priest is boring and his homilies are awful.”


“It’s not even a church. It’s an auditorium (or gym, or lecture hall).”


Mass is too early, too late, too time-consuming, too much trouble.


They say they’d literally rather not go to Mass at all, than to be somewhere that doesn’t fit their ideal. But that’s not the point. We don’t go to Mass because the church is beautiful and the music is always on pitch and the homilies are soul-stirring. It’s excellent when any or all of those things are in place, but that’s not why we go. We don’t even go for the community, though that, too, is desirable. None of those things are the point of the Mass and their lack is not a reason to skip it.


We go to Mass to give glory to God and to receive him into ourselves.


Much like the bride who offers herself to a groom, only even more so, Jesus is literally offering us intimacy with him in the Eucharist. He’s offering all of himself in a real and tangible way. He waits for us on the altar.


Now, ponder that a moment.


When you say that you don’t have time to go to Mass, or you won’t go because don’t like the parish or the music bothers you, what you are saying is that you’d literally rather not receive Our Lord who offers his act of love to you personally than go to a Mass that doesn’t meet your ideal. Jesus wants you, but you’d rather leave him at the altar than to go under whatever circumstances he’s offering.


When I was planning my wedding, I literally remember saying I’d marry Mike Foss barefoot in a barn if that’s the only way we could do it. I so wanted to be with him that I would have been happy beyond words to receive that sacrament anywhere. Literally. Nothing could have stopped me. Further, I would not have denied him or delayed my “I do” for anything in the world. Even now — especially now — I can’t even imagine hurting him that way.


Jesus in the Eucharist is a love offering like none other. He wants each one of us singularly and intimately. Will you leave him waiting at the altar?


Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018