Why don’t we feel a thrill about being with God?

      Back in June, my family drove to Sandusky, Ohio for our annual trip to the Cedar Point amusement park. As usual, a splendid time was had by all, especially our 6-year-old grandson Ben.

      When the time came to leave, Ben did his best to delay the departure. First, he hid under the covers of the hotel bed. “I’m staying here till next year!” he exclaimed. I asked him if I could come visit him at Christmas, and he said yes.

      Next, he hid his shoes. “We can’t leave with no shoes!”

      Finally, upon locating the shoes, he said he was going to “break the car, and we’ll have to stay at Cedar Point.”

      Tears accompanied his being strapped firmly into his car seat. By the time the car exited park property (a good mile from the park’s hotel), however, he was once more his jolly self.

      Departure day from Cedar Point is always a downer. For two days we’re all together having a swell time and then, in the blink of an eye, it’s gone. A whole year must pass before we do it again.

      I know how Ben feels.

      Why don’t we feel that way about God? His Church?

      Oh, I don’t mean Mass; everyone has attended a Mass after which you say either aloud or just to yourself, “Thank God, that’sover!”

      Nor do I mean parish meetings where – in a misguided attempt to be magnanimous to the tardy, the pastor, or whoever else is in charge – delays in starting the meeting push back the scheduled conclusion. And when the meeting finally does start, the hemming and hawing is so thick and ludicrous that you’re convinced that driving a 10-inch needle into your ear canal would be preferable.

      Furthermore, I do not have in mind the ubiquitous complaints about the style of music played at Mass, or the lackadaisical manner of the priest or deacon during the Mass, or everyone’s all-time gripe: the pitiful homily delivered by the priest or deacon.

      What I am talking about, though, is an excitement about being a Christian and a delight in worshipping the Lord.

      One of the problems, I think, is the way the Catholic Church couches the issue of attending Mass: we’re obliged to attend (COVID-19 pandemic dispensation being an anomaly). Really? If attendance at Mass is obliged, then what are the terms of the obligation? How soon must I arrive at church in order to meet that obligation?

      If I slip into the back pew during the first Scripture reading, does that count? May I vamoose after receiving the Holy Eucharist, or must I tarry until the dismissal in order to meet my obligation? And if I do meet the obligation, what do I get for observing it?

      That’s not excitement, that’s not joy, that’s meeting the code of a contract. Trouble is, we don’t have a contract with God, we have a covenant.

      When we were at the hotel in Cedar Point on the day we arrived, the adults were busy getting ready to head to the park. Ben kept going from person to person asking, “You ready? You ready?”

      When was the last time we were similarly excited about prayer or Scripture or the architecture of our parish building?

      You may object that my analogy is mixing apples and oranges, but I don’t think so. King David danced with abandon before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14). Psalm 33:1-3 says to “Rejoice in the Lord … sing to him a new song.” “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), says St. Paul.

      You don’t dance with abandon or sing to God a new song or always rejoice in the Lord if someone says you are obligated to do so. Rather, such behavior is spontaneous and from the heart.

      Like Ben at Cedar Point.

      But what if Ben lived in Sandusky and his family had a season pass to the park? And what if his family went there every day? How soon do you think it would be before Cedar Point would become ho-hum to him.

      ‘Familiarity breeds contempt,’ goes the old saying. True, but not in terms of a relationship. I’ve been married nearly 45 years to my high school sweetheart and I can honestly say that I’ve never held her in contempt.

      My point is that the relationship between God and human beings is analogous to the relationship between a husband and wife – intimate, trusting and joyful.

      That’s not contact, that’s not code. That’s like being atop the lift hill of a 300-foot-high roller coaster as the train is about to drop over the edge at an 80-degree angle to reach a speed of 90 miles per hour.

      No one is obliged to take that ride, but the wait in line is a good hour.

 

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, I'll. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .