From above, their heads looked like row after row of weathered cobblestones atop an ancient road. Spotlights panned the audience filling them with anticipation. Completing the mood of excitement, the orchestra powered the musical overture. Finally, amidst the dry ice, music, and lights, they arrived. Thunderous applause welcomed the night's entertainment.
Entertainers are treated like gods, grossly overpaid, and accorded admiration and devotion far in excess of their talent. Yet, the entertainer or entertainers along with the assembled multitude create a uniquely emotional environment. Each individual is surrounded by a human vibration as well as the contribution of technologically enhanced sound. The setting approaches the tone of a tribal ritual. From beginning to end, all involved want to witness and enjoy a memorable event. A concert is a fantastic experience.
A concert is merely one expression of human gathering. Sporting events, political rallies, theatrical performances, and other social events bring people together for a particular purpose. But there is one assemblage unlike any other - the Mass. This sui generis celebration resembles other comings together of various persons in appearance but not in intent. There may be music, narration, speeches, and colorful costumes, but the focus is centered on worship, not entertainment. This is the point: Worship - be it a parish weekday Mass or a grand and massive assembly occasioned by a papal visit. Aspects of uniqueness are found in the liturgy as solemn yet comfortable, communal yet personal, mystical yet human. The Mass calls the faithful to recall the important words of faith, to show gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, or to relive the Last Supper; it affords us a time to be with our God, to share our lives with him, to be nourished by his body and blood, and to worship in the context of faith, hope, and love. When Mass is over, the faithful do not leave the experience as one might leave a concert being satisfied with the entertainment, but as a disciple bearing a mandate to serve. A concert creates a meaningful memory; the Mass bestows a fulfilling promise.
Two millennia of celebrating the Eucharist in kingdoms and nations, in freedom and under persecution, simply and spectacularly have enriched the lives of countless hosts. Those blessed by being able to worship freely should treasure that privilege and be on guard against those who would deprive them of it. In these United States, religious liberty is the FIRST freedom declared in the Bill of Rights. The prominence of worship being free from government domination and interference is a guarantee that has proved not to be totally exempt from political stratagem. Although inconceivable, covert and subtle (some not so subtle) attacks on religious liberty occur in this land of freedom. Judeo-Christian values constitute the very core of the nation's moral fiber. One must tremble at what would be wrought by what would replace them. The sacredness, the worth, and the defense of human life would be in peril.
Let us be clear: we value religious liberty not only because it protects our personal autonomy; we value religious liberty because of the good that religion brings into the life of the individual believer and into the life of our nation.
Father Thomas Vander Woude,
A Father's Sacrifice, Columbia, June 2012
Yes, people gather for many different reasons. But they gather for the best of reasons when they do so for worship. Therefore, let us enjoy concerts, but let us work for a society functioning in concert under the freedoms – especially of religion – that foster the best in human existence.