A case in point is funerals. It has been a busy past several months for funerals here at Nativity of Mary. You would think that after presiding at a few hundred funerals over the years the funeral rites would become for me a mindless routine. It's just the opposite. Having prayed at so many funerals has deepened my awareness of how important the funeral rites are and what a sacred trust has been given to us to come before God on behalf of the deceased.
Fr. Richard Simon, a.k.a the Reverend Know-It-All, once wrote about the funeral Mass and what we as Catholics should be doing at them. He wrote, "Right now, Uncle Fester is not interested in anecdotes about the time he blew up the garage or in hearing his favorite Broadway tunes... He wants your prayers to help him on his journey."
So I want to pray well. I want to respect the holy mystery of life and death and to commend each individual person to God well, personally, through the Eucharist, for the healing of his or her wounds and the forgiveness of his or her sins, with the greatest possible attentiveness to Jesus, with humility, prayerfulness, care, reverence, and love. It's important and it's the most beautiful thing we can do at that moment.
Important and sacred things like that somehow never get easier – and thanks be to God! As King David said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24).
To illustrate further, think about having special guests coming to your house. You never want to serve them leftovers. You want to give them something fresh and fussed-over and prepared personally for them. That’s the way it should be in our relationship with God and our service to others. It takes more effort but it’s worth it, and it pleases God, when we put our heart into our offerings.
So over the years weddings and baptisms haven't gotten any easier either, or confessions, or preaching, or my quiet prayer time, or even eating lunch in the cafeteria with the school children. Woe is me, but I'm so glad. I hope I never get complacent in any of this. I hope priesthood never becomes a half-hearted routine for me.
Thanks to all of you too who feel the stunning weight of what is important and most beautiful. Thanks for offering yourselves well in your vocations, to God at Mass every week, and in all that you do at Nativity of Mary.