For some, it is difficult to walk into a Church. Some have been away from Church for weeks, months, or years. For others, that know they have failed to live up to their Faith. It can be scary to look at the tabernacle. We want to join the Tax Collector in the back of Church and say, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”
I visited a parish where sections of the Church were roped off so the congregation would be forced into the front and middle sections of the Church. I don’t think this was good. Why? First of all, there are some people who need to be in the back for health reasons. There are some people who cannot handle crowds and need to sit away from others. Some doctors and emergency workers may be on call and need to sit close to a door to step out and answer their cell phones if they start to vibrate.
But my main reason was something a man once said to me after I tried to convince him to sit closer to the altar. He said, “Father, I just recently returned to Church. I’ve made the big step to walk through the door, but you’ve got to let me ease my way up to the middle or front. There are many things that the Lord and I need to deal with first.”
Yes, for some, it may be difficult to walk into Church, but we need to be here. Our relationship with God is a gift that flows through the Church; through Her Sacraments. Catholicism is often accused of putting people on guilt trips. This is not true. Catholicism puts people on reality trips. Catholicism dares to speak about unpopular topics like sin and the need for repentance. It asserts that our salvation is a process we are engaged in. Jesus understands our need for mercy. He wants His Mercy and not our guilt to direct our lives.
Today the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee leads us to the Pilgrim’s Prayer. The pilgrim’s prayer is both simple and profound. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner. Yes, at times it may be difficult to walk into Church. But God is here. We need Him and His Mercy. Our fellow Catholics are also here. They, like us also need the strength of God’s Sacraments and His mercy. We need to walk into the Church so that we can walk out refreshed and renewed.