“That was the best worst Mass,” my daughter said at the conclusion of a morning that was filled with mistakes. And she was right. As music ministers during the busy Advent season, we grapple with new Mass parts and seasonal music and we do our best to bring a prayerful spirit to what we do, but it’s a lot of new. We feel a bit like we’re walking a tightrope during these Masses, trying to keep everything together and of quality and help to the people, but life is messy and sometimes, so is Mass.
Today, one of the lectors got through a full paragraph of the wrong reading before the presiding priest gently corrected her. The people reacted warmly and supportively when she smiled and declared ‘take two!’ before beginning again. I couldn’t help but think that this is how God reacts to us when we make mistakes, and it brought a smile to my face. Mercy is too often forgotten in our discussion of the plan of God, but it’s absolutely indispensable and we need to talk it about it much more than we do.
During the Eucharistic prayers, my guitarist husband jumped the gun on the ‘Holy Holy’ musical response. He loudly played two chords before he realized the priest had another phrase or two he needed to say. When Tim said, “Sorry, Father”, both the priest and the people smiled and laughed a bit, then we got back to the plan. We all take detours sometimes, doing things in the wrong way or at the wrong time. I like to think that the reaction of God is the same one we received today. Mercy, warmth, forgiveness…a chance to get back on the right page.
Just a bit later, the priest lost his place in the Eucharistic prayers, paused and looked down to read the part where he says, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit”, and everyone in the place realized that this was a Mass that had gone a bit off the rails. But the communal reaction was not one of judgment or consternation, but rather joy and acceptance. So, why was that? I believe our little Chapel was a picture of the mercy and grace of God this morning and the fact that we experienced mistake after mistake caused me to pay attention to the reaction to those mistakes. The people were a picture of the love of the Father in the prodigal son story; they welcomed, accepted, and loved us, and it was such an inspiring thing to see. Today’s Mass was imperfect and holy, just like the people who were assembled. We live here in a broken world, but we are bound together by the unity of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is most active in our weakness. As it says in second Corinthians,
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
More Christ and less me, that’s what Advent is all about. Mistakes are a part of life, and they are a pathway to experience the great mercy of God. That amazing grace is something we all experienced today in the best worst Mass, and it’s not something I will soon forget.