A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to participate in an international interreligious conference at Boston College. The question posed for the scholars was, “Is this the golden age for Jewish/Catholic relations?” I concluded my talk with a tentative suggestion, namely “Early Bronze age!” They all smiled. I wanted to retain a metallic label, but also playfully allude to the primitive period in human culture as illuminating our own contemporary era of interreligious relations. We are once again still at the beginning of things, and history could go both ways, depending on our honesty, mutual respect and determination.
One of the Jewish speakers, curiously enough, teaches a course on Catholic sacraments at the University of Tel Aviv. He told me that once a person makes a leap of faith, the Catholic sacramental system is completely reasonable, logical, integrated and cohesive. It was a good reminder of the profound blessing which our faith can bring to the lives of people who understand its inner power.
That in turn led me to think about all the confirmation letters which we bishops here in southeastern Wisconsin receive this time of the year, and how often the young people admit that they haven’t been very faithful to regular Sunday participation in the Eucharist. Usually the confirmation programs rekindle a spark of new interest and understanding; the retreat experiences often produce a resolution to change the pattern. Sometimes the young people become the ones who get their parents up for Mass on Sunday morning!
Weekly participation in the Sunday Eucharist is far more than a mere duty to be gotten through like a dentist appointment or a cold shower. It is far more than a boring interlude in an otherwise interesting life. Included in every Eucharist is a crash course in all the fundamentals of Christian spirituality. Everything is there! For that reason we need to come back, week after week, to recapture the full reality of our life in Christ.