This week I was going to write a scathing review of a musical I saw last Friday. It was probably going to make a few people laugh, but it would not have been a very nice thing to put out in the world. (Well-written, though.) But at Mass this Sunday some things happened, and combined with my priest’s powerful preaching, I decided to blog about something else. Love.
More specifically, our call as Catholics to love. And if you aren’t Catholic, or Christian, then your call to be a good person, and love strangers.
See, at my church there’s this thing for all of the children at the Mass. Before the readings start, the priest calls up all the kids for a “children’s mass”, where an adult basically says the meaning of the Gospel in simpler terms. The kids usually return after the homily, so they aren’t there for the whole Mass. Anyway, the priest calls them up to the altar, jokes around a bit, blesses them, and then the kids walk out to the gathering space. There’s usually about 20 kids, and they close the doors after they leave to keep both areas quiet.
Well, Fr. Mark had already blessed the group of kids, and they all were walking to the door, almost there. This little girl of about seven or eight years old comes out of the aisle next to my pew and walks slowly in the direction of the group. She walked with her head down, her stuffed animal covering her eyes, and I could tell she was shy. I saw myself in her. I too held onto my stuffed animals longer than necessary, I too was shy. I could tell she was really scared walking in front of all of the congregation. As she walked farther and farther away from her parents, I heard my own mother whispering next to me. “Don’t close the door, don’t close the door.” A fear filled me and I too began silently praying, don’t close the door. But right as she was about to go through the doorway, the door closed.
My heart shattered.
She was obviously too shy to open the door, or maybe too little to push it. She just sort of froze, stuttering her steps. She turned and walked back across the Church, this time walking too fast to cover her eyes. She looked right at me with tears in her eyes and I wanted to run to her. I had wanted to run to her when she first started walking across the church, all alone. I wanted to be there for her, so she didn’t feel so embarrassed and afraid. But I just sat there in my seat.
She will remember this moment for the rest of her life, I thought. In a Church full of 300+ devout Catholics, no one helped this young girl? But it was no one’s fault. Yet I still was racked with guilt.
The readings were read, and the psalms were sung, but I did not sing. All I could see was this girl playing in my head on repeat, her pigtails, her stutter step, her tearful face. Her stuffed animal. When I looked up, the psalm was speaking of compassion, and my own eyes welled with tears. I felt like I had failed this child, this little girl in whom I saw so much of myself.
In the gospel this Sunday, God gives his people a new commandment. To love one another.
It was in this moment that I thought to myself, “Okay God, I get it”.
He does work in mysterious ways.
And of course, Fr. Mark was doing some powerful preaching about loving one another, about seeing each other deeper than the labels we give them. Being aware of our actions.
And I realized that we have misjudged so many people throughout our life. We decide to judge people based on one action, and act accordingly. That’s why people say first impressions are important. And I have noticed that I hate it when I am snap-judged, so I try not to do it to others. But I am not perfect; no one is.
My mom and dad are trying to practice “living with intention”. That means being aware of your actions, giving purpose to your day-to-day life. It’s been hard for me, I’ll admit. When I’m just lounging on the couch and my mom comes in and says “How did you grow today?” or “Are you living with intention?” I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to justify my laziness, I just want it to be left alone, like an old car parked in an empty field. There’s no reason. It just is.
But they are right; of course they are. Laziness should not exist. Regret should not exist. Assumptions should not exist. These are things that negatively impact human nature, that we as Christians are called to overcome.
They’ll say you can’t do it. They’ll say it’s not worth it. They’ll say it won’t make a difference. But “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.” Mother Teresa said that. Look what she did.
P.S. That little girl? She was smiling with her brother by the end of Mass. I guess she’s stronger than I thought.