Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
Yesterday I sat on a plastic chair in a row of six other plastic chairs to talk to the young people of my parish about parish involvement. I was a part of a panel: old and young, men and women, those who serve our church. I listened to their stories, from the man who counts the monetary offerings to the woman who sews the prayer blankets.
My assignment was to talk about being a lector, reading the Bible during mass. I was to explain how this impacted my life at the parish.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
I knew what I wanted to say. I love being a lector. I told the young people that I love being a lector because I am able to remind the People of God of our stories. I am the one who stands in front of them and reminds them of the promises of God and the stories of those who have gone before us.
I am in awe that I have this privilege. I live in an age where women are allowed to proclaim the words publically. I live in an age where the mass is in my mother language, I have been given the grace to learn how to read, for goodness’ sake. I told them this, these young people, about to be confirmed.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
One time I had the grace to visit Rome. Perhaps I experienced Rome poorly—I don’t care to return. But one thing that struck me was the great Basilica of St. Peter’s.
The space is massive—too massive for my mind to comprehend, really.
I remembered studying these historical structures when I was still young, how each of the great churches and cathedrals took generations to build. Often the architect who originally planned the structure knew that he would not see the completion. Often those who finished the buildings hadn’t been born when the construction had originally begun.
And then I thought of those who were the middle builders: they neither saw the beginning, nor the end, they could only trust in the past and hope in the future, handing the church off as it had been handed to them.
I think about this sometimes as an allegory for our faith life.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
There was a young woman, my age, who I used to work with at my college job. She was one of those people you knew but didn’t really know, if that makes sense.
We would chat about the weather, our co-workers, the members, but never our fears or our dreams.
I was told yesterday that she was dead.
Her funeral was to be from 4-7, and then a service from 7-8. Because I was previously committed to the confirmation chat, I drove into the parking lot not ten minutes after eight. Late, I know, but there was only one day for the viewing.
There was no one else in the parlor. The workers were stacking chairs. They told me the family had gone to a restaurant; I could not pay my respects.
I have no way of reading the pain and grief for a family that comes from a situation like this. Her family must be shaken. I do not pretend to know where their hearts are.
But, to be twenty-four with no one in your funeral parlor?
Dear God. I cannot stop thinking about this. I cannot stop crying.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Something happened over breakfast today, and I don’t remember the event, only the reaction. Maybe it was someone saying they had been hurt by the church.
I realized that I was going to work, where I work for the church. Today, again, I represent the church. It is possible that I will say something hurtful, or not fully listen to someone, and these things will wound them…in the name of the church. In the name of Jesus.
And then I read this. Dear God, this. A child who has been hurt as no one should ever be hurt.
And I asked myself, “What am I doing here? In the long run, am I a person who hurts or am I a person who heals?”
I looked at my desk, a part of a religious system that is full of politics and wounded people and I realized that I didn’t know the answer to the question.
I asked one of my co-workers (a man who, like me, dances with God through hard questions) if we are ones who hurt or who heal. He responded, “I think the answer is that, sometimes, we’re both. But, God can use that.”
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
Minutes later, the church down the street called to ask if I would lector.
I said I would.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
I looked out at the congregation when I stood next to the priest, waiting to bring the Eucharist to the small congregation. My mind questioned my work (again). I thought about the funeral (again). I wondered about all the interior battles the congregation must be facing.
“Wow,” I thought, “we are such a broken people.”
Right then, the priest snapped the Eucharist in half. A broken Christ. Broken with us, for us.
Jesus did not come to remove our pain but, rather, to join us in it.
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
There is a man with mental disabilities who attends daily mass. He knows certain faithful phrases, but frequently uses them too-loud and at the incorrect times during mass.
As I passed out communion, the blood of Christ, he came and stood to my side. When the line had finished, his body faced me and he folded his long fingers, but he looked past me and said, “Every day I say, ‘Praise Jesus.’ I praise Jesus.”
“Yes,” I responded, “that’s right.”
“Yes,” he smiled, “that’s right.”
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.