Bishop Hying

Failing to refashion how we live Sunday, we lose depth of our faith and richness of our own humanity

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on June 2, 2019


      Whenever we experience the presence of God manifest in his grace, goodness, forgiveness and salvation, the instinctive human response is to worship, praise and adore him. We see this dynamic throughout the Old Testament in the prayer of patriarchs, prophets, kings and judges. We watch Simon falling down at the knees of Jesus at the miraculous catch of fish. We think of the conversion stories of the saints who often discovered, in an astonishing and revolutionary fashion, the unfathomable love and presence of God. 

      Worship of the Lord became the foundation of lives given in sacrificial service.

      This past May 31, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Visitation, that touching moment narrated in Luke’s Gospel when Mary, newly pregnant with Jesus, hastens to rejoice with her cousin Elizabeth, who is expecting John the Baptist. This dramatic encounter between two women who bear within themselves the great secret of God’s saving plan crescendos in the beautiful praise of Mary’s Magnificat. 

      The Blessed Virgin, overflowing with love, thanksgiving and joy, chants her worship of God whose mercy and goodness are infinite and powerful. Filled with grace, bearing the Word made flesh, Mary erupts in adoration of the Lord, the one, supreme Good.

      When we ponder the remarkable workings of divine grace in our own lives, feel the transforming power of Christ’s mercy in the face of our sins and cherish the remarkable gifts the Lord has given us, our hearts explode in praise and thanksgiving, just like Mary. The Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving” becomes our communal way of thanking and adoring the Lord for the gratuitous offer of salvation and eternal life, won for us by Jesus, in his death and resurrection. 

      When we understand and feel the enormity of this gift, Mass is no longer a heavy burden or a dutiful obligation. Like Mary, we hasten to this sacred place, gather with the Christian community and chant our Magnificat of praise to the Lord.

      Whenever people tell me they do not get anything out of Mass, I remind them the Eucharist is not first about us or what we receive. We come to church to offer our sacrifice of love, thanksgiving and praise for grace received. The liturgy is the sacramental expression of God’s sacred and saving action in our lives; it reveals what God is doing first, and then we make our response to that loving initiative.

       Imagine going to a wedding or funeral and saying when it is over, “I did not find that meaningful.  I got nothing out of it.”  Guess what!  It wasn’t about you!  So it is with Mass.

      A culture that does not know how to worship, or feels no need to offer praise and thanks to God, cannot hold together for long. At the root of “culture” is “cult.”  When we think of cult, an image of a fanatical group of brain-washed followers comes to mind. That negative definition is not what we are talking about here. 

      The original meaning of cult is worship and adoration of God. For every civilization, cult holds culture together. This truth finds architectural expression in the placement of the church at the very center of every medieval village. Every society had groups of people dedicated to prayer and contemplation, from Buddhist monks in the East to shamans in Native American tribes to Catholic monks and nuns. 

      When a society replaces contemplation with ceaseless activity, holy leisure with the “weekend,” times of silence, reflection and solitude with incessant noise and constant stimulation, there is no room or reason for worship and praise of God. At least in the West, the human project has detached itself from the moorings of faith and belief with the result being that most Westerners find sleeping in, watching sports or going to Starbucks on a Sunday morning to be much more compelling than worshiping the living God who created, redeems and saves us. 

      When culture loses cult, we not only lose our connection with God but we cease even being able to comprehend the meaning and purpose of our own existence.

      Here in the Diocese of Gary, we are unfolding the “Keep Sunday Holy” project, an effort to help families and individuals reclaim the Lord’s Day as Sabbath - as a sacred time for worship, rest, leisure, family and friends, study and service. 

      It may seem impractical or even impossible to refashion how we live Sunday, but if we fail to do so, we will lose not only the depths of our faith but also the richness of our own humanity.  Deep down, none of us wants to live in a materialistic, transactional world with no room for the transcendent, poetry, beauty and holiness.  Deep down, our souls long for God.

      When I ponder the extraordinary gifts the Lord has poured into my life, when I feel the depths of Jesus’ merciful love, when I know the power of divine forgiveness and forbearance, my heart wants to sing the glory of the Lord.  That over powering need to praise and glorify God finds its full expression in the Magnificat of Mary. 

      If you wrote your own Magnificat, your own hymn of praise to God, what would you say?  What would be its themes? What background music would offer a context for your gratitude? 

      “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” (Luke 1: 46-48)


       + Donald J. Hying

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