RECENTLY, I CAME across an article by Melanie McDonagh, a British writer.
It was a light article, but with a lot of meat in it as well.
She talked about the trend of “religious” services, traditional in many areas, but without a faith in God; essentially abandoning God, but still trying to fill the “God gap.”
She then pointed to some serious studies done in this area on the “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon, which is certainly not new, but is bandied about rather easily in our world today.
Would it surprise you to learn that those who attend religious services with attention to God benefit on the mental health spectrum more than those who attend community gatherings, absent of God?
McDonagh wrote, based on those studies, “There must be something in the nature of a religious gathering that distinguishes it from other forms of human society.
“We go to church, to Mass, bound by a common belief in the God who made us all. We are exhorted to be good in relation to God, not just each other. The Scriptures remind us of the great realities of being creatures, of being dependent on God. We are exhorted to charity and works of mercy in sermons. We think about eternal life. In other words, there is a vertical axis that binds us together as well as a horizontal one; it looks like a cross.”
We are imperfect individuals who sit in the pews, and it is nice to hear that actually sitting in the pews, with the weeds and the wheat, listening to occasional beautiful music and a homily or sermon on treating one another well, shaking hands and smiling to the aged and children, and knowing above all that there is a God who loves us, has a very positive impact on our mental health that is not achieved anywhere else, according to those studies.
If this seems like such common sense, then why isn’t it?
Who can forget the packed churches immediately following Sept. 11, 2001? A time of crisis and the people gathered.
Slowly the crisis passed, but has it really? No.
We are born, we will live and we will die. That is one thing we all have in common.
Think of the cross and the road to heaven and your eternal soul.
The horizontal is each one of us, our life and our actions here.
The vertical is our life after.
This is what Christians see every day, and this is what we should aspire to in our faith communities.
The late and great Joe DiMaggio was a very quotable guy but I love this particular quote because it says so much about what is expected of us, and about Joe himself: “I played my best every day. You never know when someone may be seeing you play for the first time.”
Wherever, or whoever you are, play your best every day.
People are watching, but even more importantly, God is.
In one of the daily Mass readings recently we were cautioned to let “no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
It truly goes without saying that so much of what we see in our world today falls under “empty” and “seductive” and that so many people, searching for something, will just keep searching, filling that God gap with answers that don’t last.
“Love God, love your neighbor,” we hear from Jesus, in that order.
The foundation of loving God allows us to do anything, but this love must come from the heart, not just the lips, because we know that not everyone who “says Lord, Lord, will see the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 7:21).
Who was Jesus talking about there? Let your heart rest in Jesus.
In our culture today we have what some have termed “the lost boys.”
It is an apt term in that it describes the figures who dominate our news and in the worst way imaginable.
Lost boys, unaware and uncaring, unmoved by the preciousness of life.
We need to pray for these souls as more and more of our citizens dismiss Christianity.
Jesus is the ultimate healer. Don’t keep that to yourself.
The rock, the cornerstone, the foundation has been and always will be God.
Healing, joy, mercy, acceptance and love are just some of the many things freely offered by our Lord.
Ask Jesus to enter your heart, literally, and you won’t ever be the same.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. His email is [email protected]