Matthew 15:8 “ These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
We have a lot of rituals in our Church. I mean, a lot. If we aren’t careful (or aren’t taught properly their purpose), we can lose our focus on Jesus through focusing too much on the checklist. Ritual is important. God blessed and ordained certain ways in which we connect with Him. However, our obedience to God expands to more than just following ritual robotically. He made us relational creatures with freewill and hearts that love and yearn to be loved!
The rituals should, above all, usher us to the ultimate goal…Relationship with God.
Our relationship with God might begin with following the rituals out of duty, out of being told it’s necessary. But if we do not pursue the next step of making it about loving our God, then we fall as the pharisees did. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
What is your heart posture when you’re in mass, bored by the readings or when the priest is falling asleep as he gives the homily? Where is your heart when you don’t feel God in the ritual? How the heck do we take ritual and make it into relationship when (quite frankly) certain rituals are just not our love language?
I’m sure my husband is less than thrilled to take out the garbage when I remind him of his duty to our household. The Sunday night ritual for him is one that does not inspire his heart in an exciting or romantic way. However, because he loves his family, he joyfully fulfills his part and in turn makes his wife feel quite loved…and guess what? He feels joy upon finishing the task because his wife clearly is happy with his devotion! His sacrifice in doing this ritual transformed into a gift to our relationship.
OK. I’m gonna go there. Sunday mass. Mass for this convert is HARD. Especially when I’m dragging 3 seemingly demon-possessed children into the house of the Lord by myself because my hubby is leading worship. This ritual often becomes a bitter sacrifice more than a joyful gift I can give. I know in my head all of the beautiful and epic things that happen during mass (like Jesus coming to us in the Real Presence. You know. Kind of a big deal). But my heart feels unmoved. I complain to God that I miss the zeal and emotion my Protestant churches used to have. Relationship with God was so much more natural and intuitive for me there. In the Catholic world, my love language has felt squelched.
But as important as it is for me to love God in my love language, I think God has been trying to teach me how to love Him is His love language. In the same way that I feel loved when Nick takes out the trash for me, GOD feels loved when I meet Him in the mass. Mass is a holy and good thing. It’s not some man-made service. Mass was essentially created by Jesus himself at the last supper! The breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine is where Jesus lays himself out for us. Like a husband offering himself for his bride. And I, his bride, haven’t had eyes to see the beauty of this gift because my heart was unsatisfied with how He presented Himself in such a foreign way.
If I allow the ritual to flow from a place of love in my heart… it becomes something more. It becomes relational. Not just dry words from my mouth. But sonnets of love to my King. Not merely rote kneeling and rising. But a ballet for my Lover. Feelings and emotions are fleeting and not the foundation of a strong relationship. True love comes after the honeymoon. It comes through tears. Through learning the other’s longings. Through growing closer when your world is falling apart. Through nights of despair. Into glorious dawns of restoration. Love is not easy. But it’s always worth it.
Today, relish in the knowledge that you are deeply loved by our God. And love Him back with all your being!
Take a Victory, Mates!