For weeks on end I fantasized about our family’s vacation to a dude ranch in central Florida.
The activities would include rock climbing, airboat riding and a rodeo. There was definitely something for everyone! My daydreaming fashioned a utopia where my 6-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter would have plenty of fun activities and my wife and I could spend quality time together. I imagined a place where all my desires would be satisfied.
We recently returned and the venue more than lived up to its billing. Our kids had a blast, especially my daughter since her current self-professed career track is being a cowgirl. My wife and I were able to lounge on the couch and enjoy a “Gator Boys” marathon on Animal Planet. It was flawless. Every expectation was not only met, it was surpassed—except one. An underlying pit in my core was left wanting.
My wife encapsulated this incompleteness when she gazed at our two sleeping children, then looked at me and said with a sigh, “They’re getting so big.”
What my wife was lamenting by saying “they’re getting so big” wasn’t their size, but this: TIME IS PASSING BY.
With a simple sigh she was expressing that we no longer had two babies—their innocence slowly vanishing. Her sullen glance told of the hardships and trials they would encounter from which we could not protect them. That, as time relentlessly marched on, we too were getting older. Approaching our mid 40s, our conversations now include mammograms, cholesterol levels, and stress tests. Will we be able to keep up with them as teenagers? Will they want us to? My wife’s words subtly reminded us that our own parents are also getting older. Dementia, Parkinson’s, diabetes and a host of other maladies ravage their minds and bodies. How much time do we have left with them?
It is the passing of time that robs not only this vacation, but every moment in life from being completely satisfying. But oh, the Mass.
Nothing in life has ever been able to satisfy completely.
As a child, I would dream of Christmas morning. But after all the presents were opened, I thought to myself, “is this it?” and the longing returned.
How many of us go on a trip we thought would bring complete happiness only to return unfulfilled. Or the perfect job that revealed it could not fill the void.
Without exception all my personal goals and professional achievements have been unable to deliver the total bliss longed for. For this I blame the passing of time. But oh, the Mass.
This longing for something impervious to time is not of our construct. The Book of Genesis tells us we were created in friendship with God and in harmony with all creation. The Catechism calls this original holiness. As partakers of original holiness, we also had a share in the divine life—we were immortal.
“As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.” –Catechism of the Catholic Church #376
Through an act of disobedient eating, however, a rupture occurred. Our primordial parents were told “do not touch, do not eat.” But we did, and we lost our divine intimacy, and with it, our immortality. We were expelled from the Garden and Death was introduced. Time’s “tick-tock” was set in motion.
Ever since then, we’ve longed for divine intimacy and eternity. However, we’ve been searching for “forever fulfillment” in a world that can’t provide it. Neither people nor things nor vacations nor presents can ever fill that longing. We’ve looked to the temporal to fill an eternal void. But oh, the Mass.
A priest once told me the first thing he does before vesting for Mass is to remove his watch. He’s leaving the time-driven temporal world and entering a time-less sacramental one.
At Mass, the sacrifice of Christ, which took place some 2,000 years ago, is not bound by time’s limitations. Calvary is made present in sacramental form and it’s graces made available to us today.
At Mass we celebrate the Risen Lord who is free from time’s restrictions:
“In his risen body he [Jesus] passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space.” –Catechism of the Catholic Church #646
At the Mass, the antidote to disobeying God’s command “do not touch, do not eat” is made by our Savior through the celebrant when he says: “take this, all of you, and eat of it.”
And when we do, we are heirs to his eternal promise:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”– John 6:51
“In the earthly liturgy, by way of foretaste, we share in that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims…” – Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (#8)
“My beloved brethren, it is no temporal feast that we come to, but an eternal, heavenly feast.” -St. Athanasius, Festal Letter 4.3
Filling the God-Shaped hole
Mass is when I feel most connected to my family, when I feel most fulfilled as a husband and father, and when I feel most aware of the presence of God and the joy he brings.
Mass is a course correction—a recalibration. It is my weekly reminder that we are forever people who should focus on the things which will not end at the conclusion of time but will endure throughout eternity.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” – St. Augustine of Hippo
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death…” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
What about you? Do you find fulfillment in the Mass? Does it bring you joy? Peace? How do you hold on to fleeting moments? Share and let’s learn together!