We all know what the road to Hell is paved with, right? Good intentions.
Like many a familiar maxim, this one is easily dismissed as little more than just a catchy saying, but if we scratch the surface just a bit, we’ll find a seed of eternal truth; a truth that I dare say is becoming more and more evident in the typical modern-day liturgy.
- Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers are hardly extraordinary any more. It seems that every Mass demands them now. Of course, the reason is to allow for more lay involvement in the liturgy - for women especially - and surely that’s a good intention.
- When Ephesians 5 comes up in the cycle of readings, the “shorter form” allows us to skip over the most controversial part; “Wives, be submissive to your husbands as to Christ.” Avoiding the possibility of hurting anyone’s feelings is always a good intention, no?
- This group or that is invited to stand in the middle of the Mass to receive a special blessing; those going off to college, married couples celebrating an anniversary, new parishioners, etc. The congregation is invited to express their support with a warm round of applause. Surely this attempt to make our brothers and sisters in Christ feel welcomed and affirmed is a good intention if ever there was one.
How can the road to Hell be paved with anything of the sort? Like many good intentions, the aforementioned examples involve a sort of narcissistic self-focus, specifically at a time when we are called to focus on Christ. The liturgy, properly speaking, is not all about the here and the now; it is not about the community or any particular group therein – it's about God's people being taken up in the once-for-all of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, and our hopeful anticipation of the still-to-come of His glorious return.
It's interesting to note that the road to Hell didn’t even exist until Adam and Eve turned their attention inward, and with the good intention of gaining knowledge, took their eyes off God specifically at a time when they needed Him most.
I guess you could say there’s nothing new under the sun, but that’s another expression for another day.