One of my favorite aspects of the comedy of Jim Gaffigan is how he combines attachments to the things of this world with an attitude of selfishness and laziness. The “character” that he uses in his comedy is a combination of goofiness and raw human instincts all combined into a hilarious charade of constantly seeking pleasure and comfort. In his comedy routine Beyond the Pale, he has a particular clip about Church being boring (and, yes, he means the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass).
Outside of the offense it might give to some, in this clip he summarizes a wide breath of spiritual insight that connects disordered affections for food and comfort with spiritual dullness and boredom. The key to the Eucharistic celebration being alive in the hearts of believers is not about programming or better theatrics, but rather the interior disposition that we bring to it. The reality is that attachments to the things of this world prevent us from entering into the drama of the Eucharistic encounter.
That is why asceticism is such a fundamental aspect of Christian discipleship. Through fasting, confession, and allowing ourselves to suffer the silence of interior prayer, our hearts awaken to the deeper reality of the Holy Spirit which lies below the surface of reality. In cultivating the disposition needed to receive our freedom in Christ, we give space for the Lord to transform and heal the disorders of the heart. This, in turn, allows us to enter into the Eucharistic moment in ways that captivate our attention and awakens in us holy desire.
The intimacy that we discover as our hearts are purified does not mean that we become pure spirits completely detached from the things of this world. Instead, we return to the comforts and pleasures of this world with a renewed capacity to experience them with sobriety and moderation. Our freedom in Christ gives us a new found appreciation for all aspects of creation, and our enjoyment of them leads us to gratitude, service, and fellowship with God and neighbor. It is a pure heart that has really mastered the art of living well.
Today, let us embrace the path of asceticism. Let us dare to travel underneath the surface pleasures and comforts and to embrace the deeper spiritual rhythms which move below the surface. This is the path to true happiness, a happiness that sin, suffering, and death cannot destroy.