My heart aches for the parents of a little boy who recently lost his life while vacationing on a Disney property. This post was written before news of this event broke. Please read my post from the following day as well HERE.
Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disney World? Disney is quite an amazing operation. What they do to make your visit as memorable as possible is perhaps the most amazing. The great sense of hospitality, the cleanliness of the park, and the attention to detail are ways they try to make you feel that you are at the “happiest place on earth.” Of course, nobody is perfect and sometimes a “cast member” or the system falls short. However, you are guaranteed that they will work to correct any issues and will try harder the next time. All of this effort in an attempt to create fond memories of your stay, to ensure your desire to come back again, and convince you to spend even more money on Disney products.
But at the end of the day, it really is all illusion. There is no real Mickey Mouse and the happiest place on earth is really just a business selling you a fantasy. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not a happiness that can be sustained after you leave and it is not a world that is real. We all need a little fantasy and dreaming in our lives.
But what the Church offers in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, is real. When we come to Mass, what is being offered is not a fantasy, but a real interaction with Jesus Christ. Surely this means that our churches should be the happiest place on earth.
However, too often people are met at our doors with anything but hospitality. Too often smiles are in short supply. Attention to detail seems to high a calling on some Sundays. You would think in some places that they have no idea that Jesus has invited us all here and that Jesus will be truly present on that altar. At least that is what is feels like.
Hospitality and a spirit of welcoming need to be in the forefront of any parish community’s pastoral plan. Disney is selling a mouse for a price, but we are offering an encounter with Jesus Christ for free. At no time should there be less hospitality in a church experience as there is at a Disney park. The joy we have as Christians should be overflowing and the love we have for one another should be on bold display. This is how we will help people feel welcomed, at home, and even a sense of belonging. Remember, to return to Disney you are gonna pay! To return to the banquet God has prepared in your honor, that will always be free of charge.