Ninteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time C
A “bottomless pit.” We use that expression to describe certain seemingly insatiable things. If you buy a house or a car that needs constant repair or improvement, you might call it your “money pit.” Or if there’s a teenaged boy in the family, you might think his stomach is a bottomless pit. Fr. Scott is no longer a teenager, but his appetite still acts like one. I often cook supper and think, “Good—we can get another meal or two out of this…,” but we almost never do.
Deep inside of each and every one of us, there is a longing—a hunger, a thirst, an emptiness—that seems insatiable. And so we try everything we can think of to fill it: food, drink, drugs, sex, or other sensual pleasures; wealth or material possessions; power, prestige, or popularity; entertainment, sports, or other distractions. But there will never be enough food, never be enough money, always be one more game to watch. Even all the fried bread dough at the Franklin County Fair couldn’t satisfy this hunger! It’s a longing nothing in this world can satisfy. Such a bottomless pit can only be filled by something that’s inexhaustible; such an infinite desire seeks after something that’s infinite. Actually, not something infinite, but Someone…
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.… Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
This deep longing within us is for God, but so very often, we attempt to satisfy it with something other than God.
This past week, I came across an article entitled, “Why DoesMass Last an Hour?” Wearing heavy vestments on these recent hot summer days, even I have been tempted to ask that question! People are so very busy these days. It’s hard to find the time. Why does Mass have to last for about an hour? Often—if people’s facial expressions or body language are any indication—Mass feels even longer than that! Sunday Mass can seem repetitive at the least, maybe even irrelevant. But the author of that article was sneaky, because the question he really wanted to explore was, “Why does Mass have to last only an hour?” If—as the Church teaches—the Eucharist is “the source and summit” of the entire Christian life; if it’s meant to be the beginning and end of everything we Catholics do and are; if this is when and where heaven meets earth; if the Mass is the most direct contact we can have with God in this life—then how could a single hour possibly be enough?
The average American spends five hours each day watching TV. If you’re into video games, it’s an average of six hours a week spent on that pastime. We manage to find two hours for a movie, or three hours for a football game. Even in this country where we’re famously out-of-shape, the average American spends two hours a week on exercise. So why is it so hard to set aside one hour out of 168 each week? How many times before Mass begins have I heard, “Father, keep it short!” How many of you breathed a sigh of relief when you realized I was using the shorter forms of the readings today? Why is it so many Catholics get to Mass late, leave it early, or find it so easy to excuse themselves from coming altogether?
Why is there all of this struggle? Because we’ve gotten so used to trying to fill this deep hole within us with so many other things! My friends, it’s high time we rediscover what’s really going on at Mass, that we recognize Who is truly present here among us. We need to regain our taste for the only One who can ever satisfy our deepest cravings. We need to move beyond looking at our attendance at Mass as the fulfillment of a religious obligation, and see it as something we can’t really live without. This one hour is crammed with eternity! The small, white host, and the little gold cup of the chalice—they accomplish the impossible: they contain the Infinite God!
I like to tease Fr. Scott that, one of these days, his metabolism is going to catch up with him—he’s going to find the bottom of that pit. But the deep hunger, the deep longing that God planted inside you and me—that’s not ever going away.
Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts and knocks. He’s put on his apron, has a place for us at his table, and is prepared to serve us—to fill us with every good thing. It falls to you and me to be always ready to welcome and receive him.