January 2024 - Choices have consequences!

Allow me to make a brief and embarrassing confession. With the permission of the bishop, there is a chapel in the rectory where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed. I try to spend time in this chapel every day and do so on most days. From time to time, however, I believe that I am being called to the chapel. The invitation is gentle and inspiring. Unfortunately, I, more times than I care to admit, will make an excuse for why I cannot make a visit just then. I am either working on something that needs to get done, I am doing something that I am enjoying, or I just choose to be lazy. For whatever the reason, I passed on the invitation, only to realize later what I had done. Even writing about this causes me to regret my choice.

The fact that God became one of us, that God took on the human condition, reveals to us the lengths to which God will go to spend time with us. Further, the incarnation reminds us that our God is not far away but is in our midst and is intimately involved in our day-to-day life. If God will go to these great lengths to be with us, shouldn’t we make more of an effort to be with Him?

When we choose to do something else instead of coming to Mass, we are choosing to put that thing ahead of God. When our schedule revolves around sports, recreation, or even work, we are saying that these things are more important than Jesus. When Mass is something that we do when it fits into our schedule, we are giving God what is left over rather than the first fruits of our time or talent.

Choices have consequences! When I ignore the call to spend time with Jesus in the chapel, when we choose other things over Mass, we are developing habits and attitudes that continuously color our priorities. By our choices, our soul’s longing for heaven is replaced by a good day on the lake. By placing other things ahead of time with Jesus, we become content with the passing things of this world. When sports become our liturgy, then the rush of a win replaces the victory of the cross.

When it comes to our choice to put other things ahead of our relationship with God, our first instinct is to think that there are no consequences. Think about the first time we chose not to go to Mass. There was no thunder or lightning; we were not immediately struck down; the world did not stop turning. Instead, it seemed like everything remained the same. But this sameness lulled us into thinking that missing Mass wasn’t such a big deal. The next thing we know, it is 10 years later, and we have only been to Mass occasionally. We went on elaborate trips for which we researched and planned every moment but didn’t bother to see if there was a place to attend Mass in the area. And before we know it, God is no longer even near the center of our lives.

The consequences of placing other things ahead of God may be subtle. We may think our life with God on the periphery is a wonderful life. We may be comfortable and content because we have all the right things. But the fact of the matter is that at some point our choice to put other things ahead of God becomes permanent. At some point, God, who is merciful, loving, and just, fulfills our choices permanently. Simply, if we have chosen to put God on the periphery of this life, we should not expect Him to be at the center of our eternal life. 

I am not trying to scare people into coming to Mass. I am just speaking the truth. God loves us so much that, in the end, He will give us what our lives have revealed we want. If we have lived our lives pursuing righteousness and holiness, if we have welcomed Jesus into every moment of our lives, if being with Jesus in prayer and praise has been a priority in this life, then we can hope to hear the greeting, “Well done good and faithful servant, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”  If something else has been our priority, then who knows what greeting we will hear.

Choices have consequences!

Father Wilfred Labbe is pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Limerick and St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford.