As we move forward in the Evangelization and Re-Evangelization of all people, part of the focus has been to change the focus of our Church's activities from filling an hour (or less) to fulfilling the hunger of the soul. For too long we have depended on a Christian culture to fill our pews, but once people were there all too often we simply filled their hour without filling their hearts. Our religious education programs came to the young with great intentions and trutful doctrine, but rarely achieved the level of evangelization possible as the hearts they reached out to were not fertile soil. Now we are left with several generations of people who barely know the basic fundamentals of their faith, have never experienced Christ in their lives, and who have no qualms ignoring the ethical and moral code of the Church.
With so many Catholic either only attending on Easter and Christmas (plus weddings, funerals and baptisms), we don't have time to preach even the most basic message of the Gospel, let alone the richness of its implications. Without the miracle of the Eucharist in the context of our beautiful and rich Sunday liturgy, how can we expect our flock's hearts to be a fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of truth? The competing message from society, not to mention the 24/7 news media is present every moment of the day. As a Church we're lucky if we see people for an hour once a week. If know we are seeing people once a week or even once a month, the Mass is our only chance to reach out to people. At my parish, the level of care and devotion putting into making the Mass rich and engaging without sacrificing the dignity of the liturgy is impressive and worthy of praise. Our pastor gives incredible homilies, full of passion and truth, but does so in a way that engages both the churched and the un-churched. Every weekend I get the pleasure of being challenged by his clear and truthful message. He doesn't pander to anyone. He tells it like it is but in such a way that it gives his message more traction in the hearts of even the most obstinate. Besides the pastor, we are blessed with passionate ministry leaders who represent the best of our love of tradition while using a fresh voice to express it. A fine example is our 9am music ministry. We have a praise and worship band who sing authentic praise the God, but without the shallowness we sometimes experience from that style. They are as comfortable leading us in English as they are in Latin and Greek, singing a new song along with the songs gifted us by our millenia old tradition. By the time we reach the true pinnacle of the Mass, the Eucharist, our hearts are expanded, ready to be stretched and challenged even more by the real presence of Christ in His Body and Blood. As a faithful lover of the weekday Mass at our parish, whose austerity can be excused as it feeds the hunger of those who crave to always be near to the Eucharist and to be ever consumed by Christ as they consume Him, I can say in all honesty that even our beautiful weekday Mass can't compare to our Sunday celebration. For me, weekday Mass is there to sustain me, whereas Sunday Mass is there to fill me to overflowing, to build me up, to form me, and to bring me close to the full community of the Church universal. On Sunday, unlike any other day of the week, the worldwide Church joins together in harmony with the eternal celebration of Heaven. From our earthly perspective, it is the one day of the week that the Body of Christ is the most complete as the most of us are together through the Eucharist at once. It is the day that I feel the closest to my earthly and my Heavenly family. I feel the enormity of the faithful as I become my small part in the Body of Christ. I am drawn beyond my own weak personal faith into an experience of Heaven, which will be an eternal communion of the faithful.
I think the first answer to our problem of drawing people closer to Christ would be to first draw them closer to His Church. It is impossible to ignore the presence of Christ in His Body when we give our hearts over to Him at the Sunday Mass. A people who have their hunger fed at Sunday Mass become a people open to being formed by the Spirit to accept the full truth of the Gospel. While God speaks to us always in the silence of our hearts, He becomes present in the community of the faithful, through our presence and through His Most Holy Eucharist. We approach Him as individuals, but He draws us into Him and gives us Himself through our community. The authentic message of Christ is not to self-determine our beliefs in a vacuum, but to be attentive to the truths He has already revealed with clarity through the Gospel. He undeniably calls us to community, as we are reminded that "Wherever two or three of you are gathered in My name, I am there". Once our hearts become seeped in the unique joy and love we find through our community, then we will crave to know more and better the God who we meet at Mass. All the education and knowledge in the world will fail to fill us if we aren't first set ablaze with a passion for God and His Church, but once we have that passion, we will forever crave to know Him more and to love Him more.