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Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area…He said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
What would the Lord say today? I wonder…“Take these donuts out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a coffee shop!”
Once upon a time, I used to love to go visit other churches, and not just Catholic ones. I haven’t been able to do so recently, but when I did, I tried to find out what the “competition” was offering. About a year ago, I went to visit a mega-church that was and still is a converted movie theatre. I picked up one of their free brochures and read through it. I was immediately taken aback at the title, “Top Ten Reasons to Avoid Church!” But since you cannot judge a brochure by its cover, I proceeded to read through it. My fears were confirmed.
Now, I will admit and never deny the reasons people give to not go to Church. But, what I really found disturbing was how these superficial reasons, found in the brochure, were justified in the brochure! And what this church’s solutions were. I went over to the information booth (previously the ticket counter) and asked the attendant, pointing to the title of the brochure, “Don’t you mean the ‘Top Ten Excuses to Avoid Church!’” The point was missed, and for a reason; in fact, for "Ten Reasons". For them, these excuses were legitimate reasons and they had worked hard to fix them. Here are some of them.
Reason #1: Its so boring! Really? What is boring? Is God boring or am I boring? The brochure went on to say, “Not us! We use humor, dramas, original videos and upbeat music to communicate a positive message.” Really? Doesn’t all that get boring eventually? Doesn’t novelty become elderly? And what does “positive message” mean? Does it mean we tell you what you want to hear or give you what you want to see? Does a church need professional actors and actresses to make the Gospel come alive? Is that the Good News? Or do we proclaim what St. Paul proclaimed: "Christ crucified!" (1Cor 1:22)
Reason #2: They want my money! “We don’t”, the brochure continues, “we encourage first time guests to not give to the church. The service is our gift to you. So, leave your wallet at home…unless you want to eat at the Cheesecake Factory after church.” I don’t think anyone really has a problem giving money to a church, even first time guests. What I think people have a hard time giving money is for a pastor’s mansion; their wardrobe; their fancy cars and their fancy wives and children. Christ’s Apostles received gifts constantly, but they were still seen picking the wheat from the fields because they were starving! What does your Church do with their money? What does your pastor do with his money?
Reason #3: The kids will hate it! “Your kids will have a blast! They’ll be dragging you back with them each week to KidStreet, our rock’em, sock’em theatrical production where kids and their parents learn about God together.” This reminds me so much of Disney world and reminds me so little of God’s world: Heaven! Do we want to worship God our way or do we want to worship God His way? Maybe we should ask those Jews who were dancing and singing and rock en around the clock all night with their golden and false idols! We know how that all ended! God loves a good time, but not a waste of time!
Reason #4: The pews are a pain in the @#*! “Not here! We have comfy, cushioned theater seats with cup holders. Bring your latte!” I wish life were like that! But I wonder why our ancestors didn’t do the same thing? Why in the world did they make pews a pain in the @#*!, especially after they spent all day working like a dog! Why didn’t they make Church more like a theatre or a spa? Maybe, because they needed to do some penance? Maybe, just maybe, they needed to do some sacrifices for their sins.
In our attempt to bring more people to Church, I hope we never advertize the wrong things but advertize Christ’s unconditional love and timeless plan of salvation. We tend to seek that which makes us comfortable. It's no wonder we advertize things such as free donuts and coffee; a welcoming atmosphere; surround sound; a lively band or choir or music, etc. Would the Lord be driving these things out? I think so. At least, he would not be promoting them so much! I love what St. John writes at the end of today's Gospel: "Christ did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well."
What Christ did that day, (making a whip out of cords and driving people out), will not even come close to what we did to him on another day. Maybe that’s the reason why we do what we do, say what we say and pray like we pray.