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We are called to get with God’s program — and go to Mass. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Get over ourselves and get with God’s program

  • October 20, 2022

The best sermon I ever heard was delivered by Fr. Philip Merdinger, the founder of the Brotherhood of Hope, a religious community dedicated to campus ministry. Father preached a retreat for us Daughters of St. Paul, and the gist of his sermon was: “You are not the most important thing in the world. God is.”

“We often think of God as a therapist,” he said. “My therapist. Or as an ATM machine, Santa Claus or genie whose primary purpose is to execute wish fulfillment for me. Now, God does love us immensely, is ever-present to us, cares about ‘every hair on our head’ and every little detail of our lives — and He is ‘all about us,’ but not in the way that we might think. The whole world and everything in it was created for us, for humanity, but ultimately, it was created by, in and for the Son of God. God the Father is first of all ‘all about’ His only-begotten Son, Jesus. God’s plan for us is that we share not only in all the good things He has created, but in the very life of His Son.”

I heard this sermon 25 years ago. I’ve never forgotten it. Whenever I get wrapped up in my own solipsistic world, it comes to mind. Whenever I stop to make my Hour of Adoration, to engage in some other form of prayer or join in community prayer, I am reminded

I am aligning my small plans and efforts with God’s master plan. Remembering makes me rejoice that there “is” a plan, and that as a baptized child of God and member of the Church, I am privy to the divine plan! At no time is this more evident than at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: God’s perpetual work on our behalf, God’s definitive “doing.” In fact, I always look forward to the exact moment when I drop everything I’m doing and “get with the program” (that is, get with God’s program and go to Mass).

We go to Mass for many more reasons, of course, than the excitement of seeing what God is up to, but I think it’s important to be clear why we do go to Mass. Once, I sat next to a man on a plane who told me he goes to Mass every Sunday “for the good feelings.” When I asked him: “What about going to worship God?” he looked astounded as though he had never thought of that before.

It’s always great to remind Catholic family, friends and other folks who tell us they don’t go to Mass because “I pray to God on my own” that: a) Jesus told us to “do this in memory of me”; b) we can’t offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on our own; c) we can’t receive the Eucharistic Jesus on our own.

As something of a revert to the Catholic faith, a former radical feminist, and just an all-around secular-minded person, it took me years to put the faith together in some sort of cogent form. It seemed like a bunch of unrelated truths and random rituals. It seemed like spiritual gobbledygook to me.

Theology of the Body was the key I needed to draw everything together, tethering the entirety of the Catholic faith to the tangible, palpable, physical world. It helped me see that everything in God’s creation has its own essence that reveals and manifests what it is and what it’s designed for, and that all is intended to harmonize as a whole — in short, “a system.” We are part of a powerful, divinely-constituted system in both God’s world and His Church.

As Father emphasized in “the greatest sermon ever preached,” the point of life is that we get to get over ourselves, out of ourselves and participate in God’s action in the world, God’s reality. By connecting with the bigger picture, we connect in solidarity, good works and prayer with every human that ever lived and ever will live… in the Communion of Saints: the militant Church (Earth), the suffering Church (purgatory), the exultant Church (Heaven).

We write our own story within God’s all-encompassing story: a story of love, reconciliation and salvation. With God? We can write a masterpiece.

(Sr. Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. Hellburns.com Twitter: @srhelenaburns.)

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