To worship fully means to fully use my being (body, mind, and spirit) in order to worship. To worship fully, I must use my body. I worship fully when my hands and feet act upon what my ears hear at Mass. I worship fully when the words I speak reflect the truths I believe. I worship fully when my body becomes the vehicle for the praxis of my faith.
My psychology courses have made it clear to me that the mind and the body are intricately connected. This is also known in the Liturgy, for the motions at Mass are based on this understanding. At Mass, when we reverence God with our minds, we also reverence God with our bodies by kneeling or genuflecting. When we offer peace to one another, we do not merely say the words “Peace be with you” but also extend that peace through a handshake or a hug. During Communion, we receive Christ not only mentally and spiritually but also physically in the Sacrament, when the Body of Christ in the human person is infused with the Body of Christ in the Sacrament. We are not Gnostics (favoring the mind) nor Dualists (arguing separation between body and spirit). We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit which together point us to God.
“I plead with you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the compassions of God, to present all your faculties to Him as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Him. This with you will be an act of reasonable worship.” Romans 12:1
And for this reason, full worship is more than words and prayers heard and spoken. Full worship also includes performing actions that bring about the Kingdom of God, visible on Earth. Just before Thanksgiving break we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King and heard the Gospel of the Sheep and the Goats. In that Gospel, Christ praised the sheep, saying:
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.“
Having heard this Gospel, I would be living a false faith – lying to myself, to my companions, and to my God – if I did not also feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. In short, the teachings of Christ must become incarnate in my body, in my actions. My profession of faith does not make me Christian and it should not be the extent of my worship. I will be judged not by the number of times I check the box on Sunday nor by the number of Rosaries I’ve prayed, but rather by the love I had showed to my brothers and sisters.
“If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2
I am defining “worship fully” as living out the Christian message, allowing my actions to “praise, reverence, and serve God.” Honestly, I do not worship fully as often as I should. I should worship fully always. But sometimes I “merely” worship. Some weeks I just go to Mass and do not extend my worship outside of the Church doors. This is a sad aspect of my human state – I either forget God’s presence or do not bother to pay any attention to Him.
There is a poignant lesson that can be learned from the Goats. The Goats are scorned not for doing evil (taking food, withholding drink, shunning the stranger, etcetera) but because they did not do good. A person could either do the things praised by Christ, neglect to do these things, or intentionally withhold these things. We could say to ourselves, “Well, I am not a bad person, so surely I am a Sheep and need not worry.” The question that should be asked is not “Am I a bad person?” but rather “Am I a good person? And does it show? Do I just think I am a good person, or is there another who can vouch for me on my behalf?”
And so the challenge as I see it is to make our worship full by embodying Christ’s teachings, by letting the things we say and hear on Sunday instruct the things we say and do every other day of the week. Perhaps only then we can fully worship.
But we don’t need to bring about sweeping changes. We don’t need to do great things, but rather do small things in great ways. To quote the patron of our university, St. Francis Xavier: “Be great in small things.” Therefore, in addition to clothing the naked and feeding the hungry (and I mean in addition to, for we should consider these to be the highest acts of solidarity), let us also be praised by Christ as He says, “I was lonely and you visited me, I was ignored and you spoke with me, I had complaints and you listened to me, others were uncomfortable around me yet you spent time with me, I was voiceless and you spoke up for me.”
In this Advent season of hope and expectation, let us reflect on how we worship.
What ways can you worship fully in your life?
What ways can you worship fully this Advent season, or the following Christmas season?
“Was I love when no one else would show up? Was I Jesus to the least of us? Was my worship more than just a song?” Sidewalk Prophets, Live Like That
Zachary JJP Zvosecz is a Senior Theology major from Cleveland, Ohio who plans either to teach or act as a campus minister in Catholic high schools. He is involved in the CFJ, particularly by attending and leading retreats. He is also heavily invested in the student group Life After Sunday. Zack likes to watch soccer, wear Hawaiian shirts, and read books while reclined on his favorite “Reading Rock.” When in his presence, don’t mention West Ham United or his alma mater – St. Ignatius High School. Once he starts talking about either, he doesn’t stop.