This reflection will help youth consider why they are at mass. Is their church a place where they meet God? Or is it something else? Do we bring the things and cares of the world into church and let them distract us from God?
Imagine you invite a friend over. You have some snacks ready. You have chosen a movie to watch or some games to play. You are looking forward to spending some time with your friend.
Your friend arrives late. The whole time he is there he is looking at his phone. He doesn’t seem to appreciate your preparations at all. Suddenly he gets ups, says “I’m bored”, and leaves.
- How does your friend’s behavior make you feel?
- What might you do differently next time you want to do something with this friend?
- Do you think this might impact your relationship with your friend?
Read John 2:13-25
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, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.John 2:13-25
In this gospel, Jesus tells us what the temple is supposed to be – a house of prayer. But the temple has been turned into a noisy place, full of distractions. There are animals being bought and sold. There are people exchanging currency, and cheating people in the process.
So instead of being a place to spend time with God, the temple has become a place full of worldly concerns. People there are doing what they want to do instead of considering the real purpose of the temple as a place of prayer.
In some ways we can have the same problem when we go to mass. Instead of being focused on encountering Jesus in the Eucharist, we are distracted by the things of this world. Just like the friend we invited over, we are looking at our phones. Or we are bored and looking forward to our opportunity to escape.
Church is a holy place. And mass is the intersection of heaven and earth. We meet God there. So we should not casually treat it the way we treat other places in the world.
- So what are some things we can do to make our time at church a sacred time in a holy place, different than any other time or place in our lives?
First, turn off the cell phone. Don’t put it on silent or buzz. Turn it off altogether and resist the temptation to turn it on. Better yet, leave it in the car. There is nothing so important that it can’t wait until you have left church to deal with it.
Then stop thinking about how long mass is or what you want to do when you leave. Be present. It is very difficult to encounter God when we are thinking about what we want to do next. Be in the moment.
Pay attention to the words. Try to hear them in a new way. Listen to the music. Does anything catch your attention? When it does, decide if the thought is leading you closer to God. If it is, then stay with it. If it is just a distraction, try to put it out of your mind.
What if you can’t get rid of whatever distraction is bothering you? Maybe you are anxious about a test which is coming up. Or perhaps you had a conversation with a friend which upset you. If you can’t rid yourself of the distraction, then turn off the conversation with yourself about it. Instead, talk to Jesus. Ask him for advice. Say to him, “What is the most loving thing I can do in this situation?” This is very different than just thinking about it on your own and you might be surprised where it leads you.
If all else fails, offer the distraction to God. Say to God, “I can’t get this out of my mind. I know I shouldn’t be obsessed with it but it won’t go away. Please help me in my weakness. I offer this distraction to you. Please find a way to use it for your glory.” In that way, you have turned your distraction into a prayer.
- Have you ever tried any of these methods? Did it help you become more engaged in mass?
- Which of these would you like to try?
So the next time you are are mass, remember that this is a holy time and place. Don’t bring things of the world into church unless you intend to offer them to God in prayer.
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