I heard the best homily today. It wasn’t a traditional homily, and it wasn’t given by a priest, but there it was at mass, plain enough for anyone to see and hear. And thank God, because on a day like this, when mass was filled with a laborious money ask, the chaos and joy of Scout Sunday, and a marriage vow renewal, it would be easy to miss. There was A LOT going on. Anyone who was there could tell you (and they probably will).
I always wonder at how my somewhat cynical daughter processes church days like this, when there doesn’t seem to be much of anything spiritual happening at all. I worry that she’ll think this is all there is, and reject it whole. But if she saw what I saw, there’s no way she could come to that conclusion. Jesus was there.
He was there in the opening song, ‘All Are Welcome.’ As there wasn’t enough seating for all of the scouts who processed in, the leaders and older boys scrambled to place chairs and the congregation extended the song another three verses to accommodate them. There were building a house where love can dwell. It was like watching the song being acted out in real time, and it was awesome.
He was there when Kate, a scout leader and community member, helped Mark, an altar server and scout with Down syndrome, to ring the bells during the consecration. As the priest raised the host, she helped him with the timing and put her hand over his to give it a more hearty shake. When the priest raised the cup, Mark did it on his own and Kate let him, beaming with pride and joy for the vital part of our community he is.
Jesus was there at Communion, in more ways than one. The priest had invited anyone who wasn’t Catholic or who was unprepared to receive to instead come up for a blessing with their arms crossed in front. I’ve never seen very many people accept that invitation. It’s simpler to remain seated. But the very first person in line was an old man who approached, shaking, with arms crossed over his heart. He wanted that blessing. And who knows what his spiritual or religious history was; he was likely there for a grandson scout, but it was so beautiful to see how hard he worked to put himself in the path of grace. I saw it and choked up while singing the communion song and I made eye contact with my daughter to see if she saw what I saw. I hope she did.
He was there in the tremendous effort and positive attitude of Bob, an usher and longtime community member, who walks with a great deal of pain but who still coordinates a lot of the mass choreography, bringing up the gifts, checking in with families, gushing compliments and never complaining. His faith is tested and real. You can see Jesus in his eyes.
Jesus was there in all of the kids present, some for whom this is their only mass of the year. They sought blessings and asked questions. They raised their arms along with the priest. One little boy asked about the tabernacle and he answered, “That’s one of the places Jesus lives. If you see the candle burning, you know He’s here and you can talk to him about anything.” If you saw the boy’s face, you would have felt how sacred that moment was, how it might change everything for him down the road. I saw Jesus in the faces of all of the kids, many of them current or past students of mine, and I marveled at the plan of God for our lives to connect and for us to teach each other as we grow.
He was there in Deacon Jerry, who continues to make the effort to be a part of our community and to put himself in the path of grace after the devastating loss of his wife and a lot of physical suffering. His quiet, broken presence is a sign to me and others of how we move forward in faith, one step at a time.
Jesus was there today. Despite chaos and irritation, walking through people and circumstances which sometimes block our view, He was there. Emmanuel. God with us.
In Olivia, a sweet third grader who helped me with the song numbers, in Bill whose determined, hopeful faith is written all over his face, in Norm who sits quietly praying for his wife at home, in Brenna whose bright smile exudes the joy of God, in families who come together week after week to make mass a priority in a world that says it’s archaic and useless. He’s here. Jesus is here. Welcoming, loving, strengthening, helping to build a house that will one day bring us Home.
A place where saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive
Built of hopes and dreams and visions
Rock of faith and vault of grace
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions
All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome
In this place.