Why I Boycotted Church This Easter and Why That Was OK - Lessons This Week
As a Catholic, I look forward to Easter more than I look forward to Christmas. I love the period that Lent gives me for self-reflection and to place a special focus on developing my relationship with God. I love the personal growth I get from it and the peacefulness over the six weeks. I love Holy Week; I love the long masses; I love the rituals; I love the sense of community... I just love Easter.
This year, however, Easter was a little bit different for me. I didn't make as much of a commitment to Lent. I wasn't at Church everyday like I normally am. I didn't give up anything for the reflective period.
I went to Church on Holy Thursday. I stayed for Adoration. I woke up the morning of Good Friday, the biggest day in the liturgical calendar for us Catholics who take the day to reflect on the Lord's ultimate sacrifice... But I didn't want to go to Church. I can't ever remember missing Good Friday mass. I've missed the occasional Christmas mass, but I have never missed Good Friday mass until this year.
There were a number of reasons I didn't go. Each broke my heart more than the previous one.
My memories of Church were always centred around community. I was active in the Church from a young age; I had friends in the Church, and I was an altar server, a reader and a choir member. It was the people who brought the Church together at Easter time. When I went to mass on Holy Thursday night, I didn't feel like people had congregated together to celebrate the Passover and the Consecration of the Lord's Body and Blood. I felt like each individual person had gone to Church to fulfil something within themselves - not necessarily to bring fullness and joy to anyone else's life. For me, that is what God is all about. It's not about worshipping Him. He does not need that kind of validation; He's God. It's about doing something for our fellow humans. It's about bringing richness to others through our actions and our words.
The next thing that happened really tipped me over the edge. As we were leaving the Church to go to the parish centre for adoration, people were rushing to be the first ones there - whether it was to get the comfy seats or the best spot, I'm not sure. As I left the Church, I noticed an elderly woman who was struggling to walk and invited her to sit down on the retaining wall with me to catch her breath for a minute. She asked me why I had stopped. As someone who has been brought up to look out for my elders and help them when needed, I was confused as to how she could ask me why I had stopped - obviously to make sure she was OK!
But then it dawned on me - out of all these people who had just prayed to live a life in Jesus' name, who had just heard the Gospel about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples because God had asked him to serve humanity, I was the only one who stopped. Now, I'm not tooting my own horn here. All credit to my mother and father, who raised me well and taught me that the real message behind following Jesus was to serve others and be a good person.
The woman I sat with was appreciative. I waited until she was ready to continue her journey to the parish centre and offered her a hand down the stairs. We were late; the priest had already started Adoration, but it was OK because I know I had answered the question that my third grade teacher, Antonella Poncini, always taught us to ask ourselves - What Would Jesus Do?
However, the whole situation started me thinking... what are these people doing at Church if they are not becoming better people? Are they listening to the words that the priest is saying? Are the reading the paper in front of them with the Word of the Gospel written? Will my Easter be just as rich - or even more fulfilling - if I take my own time to meditate and reflect rather than attending an actual mass?
So that's what I did. I spent time alone with God in my own way. I reflected on what I believe to be the meaning behind religion, the reason for the season, the purpose of my faith and how I can make all of that come to life in my day to day life. In a kind of symbolic way, my own Easter tradition died and was resurrected over the weekend. It found new life, greater purpose and deeper meaning.
My number one message to all who are reading this - whether or not you have a formal or informal belief system you follow - is to ensure that you are never missing the everyday tests for an overall goal. Don't be so focused on being a good person that you forget to actually take time for the little things. Stay aware of the people who are around you because you never know who might need a few minutes of your time to be kept company.