Becoming Extraordinary, Not Ordinary

I’m following up on my previous article about recasting God to fit our lives. I read this article about Bishop Robert Barron’s thoughts of an Anglican church holding a Lenten rave party claiming “it’s always joyous to see them [the youth] discover this incredible place anew and on their own terms.” He went on to say that Church and Lent isn’t about experiencing God on our terms, but His.

The Golden Calf Revisited

This is the golden calf incident from Exodus all over again. This church wanted to serve God on its own terms. Instead of the church experience being something not of this world, they reduced it to a nightclub. They metaphorically melted down the holy space and recast it into something ordinary.

Once you understand that the gold calf wasn’t about the Israelites rejecting God, but recasting Him, you can’t unsee it all around you in the modern Mass. We see it in the contemporary music we select. It’s in priests trying to make their homilies into comedy routines. It’s in the casualness of people chatting in the pews before and after Mass. It’s reflected in the jeans, t-shirts, and Starbucks coffee cups people bring. The Mass, meant to be this extraordinary experience, has become ordinary.

Is this a Catholic church or Ikea showroom?

It’s the ordinariness that drives people away from the Church, not draws them to it. If the Mass is no different than a social event and the Church is like a gym membership (something we have but don’t use unless we’re feeling guilty) then no wonder Church participation is shrinking. Why should I spend an hour at Mass on Sunday when it feels no different than spending an hour watching a show at home? Why celebrate the Eucharist if it’s reduced to a cracker?

Combatting the Ordinary

Now that we’re sufficiently depressed or angry, what do we do about it? Well, like other challenges, we start with prayer. Meditate on the First Joyful Mystery. We witness an extraordinary event of Mary accepting the responsibility of bringing God into this world. She accepted God’s Will instead of fighting it. She didn’t ask God to find someone else because she wanted a normal life. She didn’t request God to change His plan so she could marry Joseph and have kids normally. Like Mary, God calls us into something extraordinary. Let’s not recast God’s plan for us into something ordinary.

That’s more like it!

After prayer, then what? We can’t change the parish or the Church if we aren’t oriented towards God. This season of Lent is a great time to ask yourself if you’re letting the extraordinary into your life. Are you breaking out of the ordinary routines by finding time for more prayer or fasting? Are you making your experience at Mass a sacred one? Are you inviting friends and family to celebrate with you (I know, that’s a hard one that I grapple with)?

The Israelites are God’s chosen people. He led them through the desert as a ray of light. He brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land after performing countless miracles. And yet, they often reduced God to someone ordinary or turned away to man-made idols. Let’s not do the same with our Church and how we approach Jesus at Mass. Let the extraordinary sink in.