Message :: Deacon David
Brothers and Sisters,
In our parish survey, one question was, “Is this parish your primary place of worship?” When I filled out the survey, I said no. It was because I was reminded of how some of our Church leaders have approached the questions of “What is worship?” and “Where do we worship?”
When the children of Israel were slaves in the land of Egypt (Exodus 5:1-12:36) Moses did NOT say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Moses said, “Let my people go and worship.” That “and worship” portion of the sentence completely changes the meaning. Instead of saying, ‘let my people go so they can each do whatever they want or desire” he said, “let my people go in order that they might worship our God.”
What follows is an extensive dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh over the nature of worship. At one point Pharaoh basically says, “Okay, your men may go and worship.” But Moses responds saying, “No, it is not just the men who worship God, but our entire community. If we worship, then it includes old, young, men and women.”
So a few plagues later, Pharaoh says, “Okay, your whole community may go and worship, but you have to leave your animals and belongings behind.” But Moses responds saying, “We don’t know yet what God will ask of us, so we must bring our stuff with us.”
Of course, after the last plague, Pharaoh lets the people go and worship. For a long time, I thought this was all a ruse by Moses to get the people out of slavery. I didn’t believe their motive was really worship. But Pope Benedict XVI showed me I was wrong. On Mount Sinai God gave Moses worship instructions in what we call the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:20-20:17.)
In those commandments, we learn it is in how we treat one another that we worship God. When a boy resists temptation and his hunger by not eating his sister’s candy bar – he worships God. When a woman forgives her husband for forgetting to take out the garbage – she worships God. When we let that car merge in traffic, we worship God.
Although the worship of God at Mass is so necessary for our faith that we are expected to do it weekly, we worship God the other 167 hours of the week as well. Blessed Oscar Romero was particularly concerned with how we do it at work as he said:
How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work, that just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with the scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing a priestly office!
Cabdrivers, listen to this message, there in your cabs, you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab.
As we recognize that “our primary place to worship” is where we encounter our neighbor, we realize it is usually outside our church building. This worship is so important Jesus says these relationships are more important than bringing gifts to God (cf Matthew 5:22-24).
So where do you worship?
It is a very good question this Labor Day as we rejoice in our ability to “celebrate Mass” in our labor.
Deacon David Krueger