I went to Mass this morning, as is my custom now. A year ago, you couldn't pay me to sit in a church. It just seemed like there was nothing there for me & nothing for me to do. I was merely a spectator. But I so enjoy being a Catholic. The Mass obligation is no longer such once I step into the sanctuary. I would be lying if I said I didn't have thoughts of not going simply because I didn't want to face the world. But Mass kind of forces me to do just that, in a gentle way of course. Its also Catholic belief that skipping Sunday Mass is a mortal sin, for which I would have to go to confession before being able to partake of the Eucharist again. I don't know if I honestly hold to that same belief with my whole heart, but I'll consent to "fulfill my Sunday obligation" out of respect for the authority of the Church.
Today was one of those days. I all but barreled into the sanctuary (spiritually speaking) & as I knelt down, my thoughts were fully engaged & racing. I really had to focus to quiet my body & mind, to push out the activity & conversations around me. All became invisible for a moment & it was just me & God. When I finished praying, I opened my eyes- "in the zone"- ready for Mass. What a blessing it is to be able to come in & assume a position of reverent prayer. I don't have to worry what people will think because others are doing it too. If someone did that in my former faith tradition, they might be called a radical, obsessive or holier than thou.
As we were listening to the readings, I happened to be scanning the congregation. My eyes fell upon a man & his daughter a few rows ahead of me. She was about 7 or 8 & appeared to be reading or drawing or something. Her father, seated to her left, was sitting there watching her with a smile. He reached over & started stroking her hair. I expected her to flinch or look up at him or pull away, but she didn't move a muscle. This was normal to her. Dad must do this all the time. As I was watching, I began to tear up because I felt in my heart that this is how God the Father sees us. This is how He experiences us. There was joy in that father's face... tenderness in his touch. How often have I flinched or pulled away or looked up at God to say "What do You think You're doing?!"
Sometimes God's love startles me, much like it does in the Eucharist. I partake of the Body & tremble with the Blood in my hands. I return to my pew in a kind of shock, as if I'd just been saved from certain death. Its that kind of feeling- something close to the adrenaline rush one gets when nearly missing a wreck or other catastrophe. But I HAVE been wrecked. I HAVE encountered a catastrophe. God's love wrecks me. Its a catastrophe I can't resist. I'm reduced to rubble & He is there with me. My thoughts returned to the father & his child... How God must feel toward us when we're in His presence! Whether we just sit with His love or are "wrecked" by it, He doesn't flinch. He stays & holds us together. He stays & builds us up.