This weekend, I'm out of town. There are only 3 churches here over a 20 mile radius (compared to my 50+ choices in the metro area). I can only make 1 within 15 minutes & its my last chance to meet my "Sunday obligation". On days like this, it honestly just seems like a pain in the butt. I want to sleep in, hang out till noon in my pajamas & have my morning coffee. How could taking a break from Sunday Mass possibly send me to hell? My priest at home preaches grace & encourages me to get to Mass sometime during the week if I miss Sunday. Its no big deal, as long as I've not set my heart on turning from God. This kind of grace, I get. And still, because of a healthy guilt complex, I reluctantly showered. Mindful of the hour fasting requirement, I even abstained from coffee & breakfast. Sigh... what's an hour to the Lord? Just a moment really... just a nothing. What difference will my presence in church make in the grand scheme of things?
So I did it. I endured. I've visited this parish many times & am used to its "down home, southern gospel-esque" responses... I'm used to the banter of familiarity & how they ferret out visitors or those with birthdays & anniversaries. I keep quiet & try & blend in so no one finds me out... One thing I love about the Catholic Church is no matter where I am or what "style" a particular parish engages in, the Mass is still the same. I stifled yawns & fidgeted in my pew... said the correct responses & tried to focus in on Christ.
When it came time for communion, I shuffled out of the pew with everyone else & prayed "Help me discern the Body.". As I approached the priest & bowed, He said what all priests say as he held out the bread: "The Body of Christ". I replied "Amen" as I took it from my hand & ate. And I have to tell you, I felt a subtle current of joy bubbling up within me as I walked back to my pew. It was like someone toggled a dimmer & the light kept getting brighter. I suddenly felt more awake. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and then Jesus' phrase from today's Gospel reading came back to mind: "Does this shock you?" What's an hour to the Lord? Just a moment really... but what a difference that moment can make.