The darling little girl that sits in front of me most of the time greets me at the door today, all by herself. Not long ago the priest had her stand on the pew and asked her if she loved her dad. We all fell in love with her. I proceed inside and two young high school gentlemen sporting matching jackets are ready to escort me to a seat, but unfortunately I arrive too early to need their services. It seems like just yesterday they were little boys bringing crayons and Cheerios to church. There is a rustling of noise coming from the choir as they prepare to sing us into the present. An elderly gentleman gets help to his seat from what always seems to be an extended family reunion. They take up the entire pew. Sporting everything but their shin guards, a few of the 6th graders make it obvious that they have a soccer game right after church. The woman who sits in the front row to the left fills me with joy, as she always does, with her smile that lights up the entire 1960's modern church, despite her wheelchair and the need for an assistant. I look over at our pastor and wonder what wisdom he'll share with us today, as he explains something to the young new server. We all stand as the music director magically transforms this huge piece of furniture into beautiful and inspiring music. The man that always comes in late and sits in the front row, comes in late and sits in the front row. The family with six kids sneaks in as the last moment as well, and I'm thinking that if I had that many kids to get ready I'd be lucky to get there before the second reading. 'Better late than never' applies quite seriously here at church.
Do I ever wish I was still home reading the Sunday paper in my pajamas? Do I feel like I have no choice whether I go to church or not? No and No. And this I feel even before mass begins! I choose Sunday mass will all my heart and soul, because I choose to be a part of something much better than listening to the gloomy news in my cluttered home, or sleeping away my life. After all, how could anything compete with the sharing of the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ among fellow Catholics like that precious little greeter girl, or the elderly man surrounded with enormous amounts of love? The only sadness that sneaks into my heart is the empty pew where you used to sit. Then the singing begins, and my sadness returns to joy, especially as I remember what a priest once told me: "If God gave you a bad singing voice, then give it right back to him!" So I do…
Here in this place, new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away,
see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in the lost and forsaken
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name.
We are the young – our lives are a mystery
we are the old – who yearns for your face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.
Here we will take the wine and the water
here we will take the bread of new birth
here you shall call your sons and your daughters
call us anew to be salt of the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion
give us to eat the bread that is you
nourish us well and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.