Last month both political parties held their conventions to nominate their candidate for president. There have been news stories that talked about how much money each convention cost, plus the cost to the host city in police protection, cleanup, etc. In this day and age with modern means of communication including Skype and email, one might be tempted to ask why the candidates didn’t just type up their proposals and email them to everyone, have a live video feed nomination, and save a ton of money. I doubt if anyone would take such a suggestion seriously. Nothing electronic can replace human contact. Both parties were dealing with internal fights and divisions, and the stated goal for both conventions was to unify the party. In addition to participating in the formal process of nominating a candidate, the delegates were able to meet with each other, support one another, solidify their positions on issues, and bring about a unity that helped them feel more proud of their party and their candidate. This would never have been possible if everything were done at home through the internet. As human beings we are naturally social creatures, and when there is a strong need to bond together we must do so in person.
But while no one would suggest they could actively participate in the convention at home, some people make the illogical mistake of thinking they can worship God at home and don’t need to come to church to do so. There are similarities between the reasons we go to conventions and the reasons we go to church. Paramount, of course, is to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Holy Communion so that we can be one with Christ in His suffering, death, and resurrection and thus have all of our (venial) sins forgiven. But in addition to that, the human element is of great importance. Being in a gathering with others who share our beliefs strengthens us in our identity as members of the Church and in our commitment to follow Jesus, which does not happen sitting home alone. Sure, we could read a good spiritual book at home, pray with the Bible, read the Pope’s comments in L’Osservatore Romano, and say private prayers, but we’d be lacking the communal gathering element that is essential to our well-being.
We as humans are social creatures, and we need to connect with others. One of the worst prison punishments is solitary confinement, prohibiting one from any contact with another human being, because it violates our human nature and our dignity. So why would we want for a moment to practice religious solitary confinement? Yes, we all need alone time when we can pray by ourselves, but we also need social prayer time when we join with others to pray together as a people and support each other in our devotion to the Lord. So just as a political convention builds up identity as a member of a political party, so our common worship at church builds us up in our identity as followers of Jesus and inspires us to be His messengers in our daily lives and in the world. So let’s here no more of this “I-don’t-need-to-go-to-church-to-pray” nonsense. Yes we do! We’re social beings! We need to be with each other, especially before God.