Joe Tenaglia, Senior Anchor Intern
“Hey man, how you doing? You going to mass tonight?”
The text flashed across my phone. It was my friend Ryan. I waited a few minutes before responding.
“I’m alright. Kinda tired. Think I’m just gonna stay in.”
A minute later another text came through.
“You should come to mass.”
I sighed. I knew he was right. It wasn’t like I had any homework to do or anything. It was just that my couch was so comfortable and the blanket that I was wrapped up in was so warm.
I had said I was tired, and I guess that was kind of true. I hadn’t really gotten enough sleep the night before, but then again that was nothing new. The main reason I wanted to stay in was because I wanted to watch some TV or play video games.
Digging deeper, I think the reason why I wanted to stay in instead of going to mass was because I was in a bit of spiritual dry spell. I figured it was easier to just avoid going to mass or thinking about my faith life than having to deal with it. Ryan knew this too, and that’s why he was taking the extra step to invite me to daily mass that night.
The key word in that last sentence is invite.
Often, we think of invitations as being for large events. As a child, you might receive an invitation for a birthday party. As an adult, they probably come for things such as weddings. They usually have some fanciful design that announces the importance of the event and they include some RSVP information. While certainly these invitations are important, there are smaller invitations that occur daily, and which form the foundation of community, especially communities of faith.
An invitation to a birthday party or a wedding is as much if not more about the person sending the invite than the one receiving it. The invitation signals an important event that the inviter wants someone to know about. In addition it includes RSVP information so that the sender of the invitation can know exactly who and how many will be attending.
There is another type of invitation to which we are called though. This is the invitation modeled by Jesus on the cross. With his arms outstretched, Jesus invites us into relationship with the God of love who is our creator. It is a selfless invitation, focused on what the recipient can get out of it instead of the sender. There is no expectation of an RSVP, only a hope that we will reach out and accept this invitation for our own benefit.
Each of us is called to embrace this model of invitation, which asks for nothing in return. This is how we build up the Body of Christ. For while faith is inherently personal, it is also rooted in community. Communities of faith gather to pray and worship together, to rejoice with one another in times of consolation and to support one another in times of desolation. But if you feel lonely, or you if feel like you don’t know how to pray, or that you are less holy than others, it can be difficult to find the courage to take the step to join a community of faith. How then, are you expected to ever find a community? The answer is in invitation.
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll be there.”
After a few minutes of indecision, I finally texted Ryan back. He was right that I should go to mass and I had realized it. I got up off my couch and got ready.
In this interaction, Ryan embraced the kind of invitation that we are all called to. It was a selfless invitation. On the surface, he got nothing out of the exchange. My response to his invitation wouldn’t have changed his own plans of attending mass. But, by the extending of this invitation and my subsequent acceptance, a community was strengthened.
If I tried to count the number of times over the past three years that I have received invitations – to mass, to go to the Grotto, to night prayer – I wouldn’t be able to come up with a number. I’ve simply lost count.
Many times, when I have received these invitations I was teetering on the edge of going to something and the invitation made all the difference. Other times, I have received the invitation and turned it down or otherwise ignored it. Even in these instances, the community was still strengthened. I might not have been ready at that moment to accept an invitation, but I had more confidence to accept the next time I was asked.
Invitation is an integral part of my faith experience, as I suggest it probably is for many of you reading this. Whether it is an offer to join someone for mass, an encouragement to sign up for a retreat, or an offer to walk to the Grotto, an invitation can make a big difference.
So, at the end of this post, I want to invite each and every one of you to think of the people who have invited you into faith over the years. Not only that, but I also invite you to do likewise and to extend an invitation to someone else. There are so many people – around this campus, throughout this country, and throughout the whole world – who are searching for something more. They might be just an invitation away from finding it. Of course there is always the possibility they turn it down but imagine the joy you’ll both feel if they accept.
As I put on my shoes and a jacket to head out to mass, another text came in.
“Good. I’ll see you there.”