The other morning at 3 am I woke up for no reason. As I lay in bed staring into the darkness I began a conversation with God because what else do you do when you are wide awake at 3 am?
I was asking God what are we supposed to do during this pandemic when we are all stuck at home and why would He allow us to miss Mass if us missing Mass is a mortal sin. He didn’t answer me per se but what He did do is ask me a lot of questions.
Why do I go to Mass? I know the right answer is that I go to Mass to worship God. But is that really why I go? Do I go out of obligation because it is a mortal sin to miss? I do not know but in all of His questions, I discovered something I had not thought of. I go to mass for Validation. I go so everyone can see that I went. I go to take my place in the Parish community as a Catholic so I can say to non-Catholics “ha! I am Catholic, just look, it is Sunday and I am at Mass, unlike you heathens.” Sometimes I literally say that to the heathens who live in my home (my adult children who no longer go to Mass).
How much of what I do for prayer is done out of the need to check the boxes of being a Catholic instead of a need to be in a personal relationship with God? Pray the Rosary, check a box. Go to Mass, check a box. Have all my kids in the pew with me, check a box.
When my son Anthony died by suicide one of the very first thoughts I had was “how am I ever going to face anyone now?” because in my mind the only box that my son’s suicide checked was the shitty mom box. It only took a few minutes after finding my son dead in my garage for me to stop caring about my “image”. For the last three years, I have been thinking about how much of what we do as humans is to maintain whatever image we have created of ourselves so that we can prove how good we are. Further than that is the need to be validated, which is human, being twisted into the need to be better than others.
It is something that happens so subtly that most of us do not even know when we go from doing something good for goodness’ sake to doing something to uphold a fake image of ourselves up to get the validation that we are indeed better than “those people”, whoever “those people” might be to us.
What if in this time that we have at home we are being given a gift of having all those boxes we obsessively check stripped away from us? What if without them we can finally ask ourselves “who am I? What do I believe? Where do I want to go from here?” along with a long examination of our lives to see what it is that really matters and what doesn’t. What if God is giving us each the space we need to center ourselves on Him and not on the need to uphold images of ourselves or distract ourselves from our wounds and sins? Will we accept that gift and do those things? What if God has given us a Lent where we have everything we need to be converted?
What if this entire thing is a void of validation and that will help us to recenter ourselves in God and God alone?
Will we take the opportunity?