Young and old came in great numbers on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. They were motivated to come by inner longings. These longings were both conscious and unconscious. But the good news was that they came. They came thirsting for a spiritual overhaul.
They came to worship God. They came to seek God. They came to find God. They came to ask God. They came to praise God. They came to heal their broken-hearts and their empty souls.
They came with inner hungers to connect with the Lord. They wanted a deeper union with their Lord. They passionately desired that new life. They wanted to celebrate the continued living presence of Jesus in their flesh.
They came with hidden wounds in their hearts. They came with infected and negative wounds. They came with bitter and cruel wounds. They came with family inflicted wounds. They came with incurable diseases and unavoidable divorces.
In the narthex of our church, one woman said she was returning to her spiritual roots. Her early childhood conditioning was not good. The figure of Jesus was very powerful for her as a child. Then as an adolescent, she rebelled against everything.
For years, she had great anger toward God. She stopped going to church altogether. She never expanded her religious knowledge. Her knowledge of the faith was remarkably shallow. She was hollow on the inside.
Her insecurities and her anxieties made her sharp tongued and over direct. She could convey scorn and judgment with ease. She was cynical and skeptical. She alienated just about everyone.
For a long time she felt unaccepted and alone in the world. She is now trying to cut through the underlying negative beliefs. She wants to dislodge her self-defeating thought patterns that have kept her from changing her life.
She now sees herself making a commitment to honestly examine her beliefs about herself. This challenging of beliefs can affect her approach to God. It can help her commit to Sunday worship.
In our brief exchange, the words poured easily out of her mouth. She said:
“I have struggled to quit drinking…. I am attempting to upgrade my shallow religious knowledge…. I am rekindling my interest in spirituality…. I have great human and divine yearnings…. I came back to church on Christmas Day…. I will continue on Sunday mornings….”
Clinical studies done at Duke University on church attendance are remarkable. These studies have shown that church attendance is good for your health. It is good for your physical health. It is good for your mental health. It is good for your spiritual health.
It was noted that those who had high church attendance had lower blood pressure than those who attended church infrequently. They had less drinking, drugging and smoking than those who attend church less frequently.Even when lifestyle factors and genetic factors were taken into account, the findings were the same. High church attendance meant lower blood pressure and an overall better quality of life.
Msgr. Thomas J. Morgan is pastor of St. Mary Parish and St. Thomas More Parish, Cherry Hill.