Every now and then someone will come past my door and request parish services of some sort. Maybe it’s to plan a wedding, a baptism, or a funeral; maybe it’s for money! And then I look at him or her and say, “Who are you?” (since I don’t recognize the person). “Oh, well Father, you don’t know me but my grandmother goes here; this is our family Church.” “Oh, I see, but where do you go to Church?” I usually ask. The response is usually something like, “Well, you know how it is Father, I don’t get to Church too often … but my mother goes here.”
Well, I’ve got news for you: your Mama’s faith isn’t going to save you. You gotta have your own faith. You have to know Jesus for yourself. There are some things you just can’t borrow. Once, you depended on your mother and ultimately the Church to announce the True Faith to you. But at some point you have to be able to claim the True Faith as your own. Your mother can’t go to Church for you and she can’t believe for you.
On another occasion, a man came up to me in the parking lot of the local food store and began to talk to me as if we were old friends. Perhaps he saw the puzzled look on my face as I awkwardly wondered if I had ever met him. He was mildly offended and said, “Gosh, don’t you know who I am?” “No,” I admitted with some embarrassment. He went on to explain that his family had been one the “pillar” families who had helped build the Church and that I really ought to know who he was. “Do you come to Mass often?” I asked. “No, but I was there at the last funeral, the one for my grandmother, whom YOU buried. Perhaps you know who I am now!” I said, “No. I certainly knew your grandmother, but I can’t say I know you.” “That really hurts Father, ’cause if it hadn’t a been for my family the Church wouldn’t be there.”
Eventually I got the man to admit that he hadn’t been going to Sunday Mass for over 20 years, from the time he graduated from the parish school, and that his only real attendance was for funerals and a few weddings. “Consider this a dress rehearsal,” I said, humorously but with ironic seriousness. “You may be angry and disappointed that I don’t know you, but it will be a lot worse to hear Jesus say ‘I don’t know you.'”