Why do people go to Church?
One of the top reasons why we choose a Church is comfort. We feel comfortable in the Church. Whether it is the music, or the priest, or the buildings, or the liturgy, the school, or the programs offered, something feels like home. We go to church where we feel comfortable. We may even endure bad homilies, bad music, or other perceived offenses, so long as we can maintain our comfort zones. Some parishes even have padded seats. Even our posteriors can be comfortable. Each comfort zone is as unique as the person it surrounds.
Priests have many opportunities to leave their comfort zones. The life of the priest contains many pastoral challenges, often on a daily basis. There are personnel issues, sickness, death, funerals, tricky marriage counseling and annulment situations, disgruntled parishioners, maintenance issues (or even disasters), reassignments that uproot you, financial stress, etc. Rather than feeling sorry for oneself, the priest can grow spiritually. Good priests will grow through these challenges. They will become closer to God.
Priests are called to follow the example of Christ. I am always impressed by Jesus’ constant movement in the Gospels. He was always on the go. Whenever one town tried to keep Him there, He would always move on. He was not to be kept. Jesus slept outside, ate what He could find, and survived on the charity of benefactors. He did not live a comfortable life. Of course, to put it mildly, He did not die a comfortable death. Likewise, Jesus did not call His disciples to comfort. From the earliest years of Christianity, following Christ was a crime, punishable by harsh penalties, including death. Somewhere along the way, we became a very domesticated Church. Even I feel that my home parish is like an extension off of my house. It would be very painful to see it changed or hurt. We have become very possessive of our churches, and claim ownership over them.
Instead of seeking comfort, maybe we should seek peace. What is the difference? Comfort is a result of our environment. It is external. Peace is a result of our attitude. It is internal. Comfort is open to being manipulated. Peace is untouchable from the outside. Comfort makes us sensitive. Peace makes us strong. Loss of comfort can lead us to make enemies. Loss of peace can lead us to reconcile. Comfort can be taken away by another. Comfort in large measure depends on others. Peace cannot be taken away unless we consent to it. Peace depends on you (God too). Comfort alternates with anxiety. Peace is stable. Comfort will not lead to good decisions. Peace will lead to good decisions.
Maybe the reason why we fight is because it is somehow easier than seeking peace. In our day, as opposed to fighting, we seek comfort. Comfort is often better than fighting, but peace is better still. If we make Christianity about comfort, we will lose. People can find more comfortable places to be than Church. There are lots of people who can give you comfort. But there is only one who can give true peace: Jesus Christ.
It is easier to seek comfort than peace. But peace is Jesus’ gift to you! Why would you wish to pass it up for something less?