Growing up in a structured faith like the Catholic Church, there was an expectation to go to Mass often. The rhetoric was the same, “can’t you give God an hour a week?”
This would extend to every day for prayers before bed. “Can’t you give God ten minutes?”
As I live and learn, I realize that faith development involves transitioning from this reward and punishment (and guilt and pressure) dynamic to one of freedom, learning, and loving.
One of the rules of the Catholic Church says that if you miss Mass, you shouldn’t receive Holy Communion, which is believed to be the body and blood of Jesus. This translates to: miss Mass and you don’t deserve Jesus.
The rationale is that the soul is not clean, and not a worthy resting place for God.
The danger in this teaching is the message of what the relationship with God is, and lacks what it can be for each one of us.
You see, God’s love isn’t limited to our actions. God loves us. Unconditionally.
Or as it reads in 1:John 4:8, God is love.
If we go to Mass, or don’t go. If we sin, or if we love. God’s love does not change.
What does change is us.
Being in relationship with God changes us.
Like any other relationship, we learn with and from one another. God, as our creator, invites us to learn and love from God.
In the Gospel of Matthew (26:40), Jesus finds that his friends were sleeping as he prayed at Gethsemane. “Were you not able to watch me for one hour,” he asked Peter.
Here we find the narrative 2,000 years later when you or I may not worship one day a week. On the surface, it is an hour with Jesus, as He needed the disciples. They failed him.
Perhaps the message invites us into a different consideration.
Perhaps, if Peter and his friends stayed awake, they could have learned from Jesus. Or they could have found peace in His presence.
After Jesus died, they likely wished for that hour back as we have felt when loved ones left us. How often do we say, “if I could have one more day?”
So maybe the invitation to go and be with God in prayer is not about meeting a requirement, or avoiding guilt and judgement. Perhaps we are invited to learn from God by spending time with God.
This can occur in your home, within the walls of a place of worship, in nature, and in service to one another. Praying in silence and in community provide different avenues to be with, and to learn from, God.
I believe approaching prayer in silence and with community compliment one another, guiding my Spirit into a deep understanding of who God is, and who I am.