At Sunday Mass this week, I saw a friend walk in with her five children, including her sweet newborn whom she was carrying in the Ergo. Wondering where her husband was, I realized that he was the lector and would therefore be sitting apart from them for the first half of Mass. My immediate thought was that I should walk to the other side of the church to help her! I know that if I was alone with my three children, I would be terribly desperate for someone to help me!
As it turns out, I stayed put and her children were amazingly well-behaved, so she didn’t need my help after all. I started wondering, though, how my friend would have felt if I had offered my help. Would she have been insulted? Grateful? Confused? This particular friend would have probably been grateful, but I began to wonder about the mothers in our parish that I don’t know very well. Would it seem strange to them for an acquaintance to offer help with a crying toddler at Mass? Are we so worried about looking put-together that we would be offended by an offer of help? I’m not trying to suggest that we all take on the mentality of “It takes a village” every time we go to Mass, but I am wondering about our ability to give and receive acts of charity on a very personal level.
In this Easter season, we are being inspired and encouraged as we hear about the early church in the Acts of the Apostles. We learn that the first Christians took the idea of community seriously, pooling their resources to help those in need, gathering in each others’ homes to celebrate the Eucharist (Acts 2:46), and learning together about the person of Jesus. They were all in this thing called Christianity together, and whatever they did, they would succeed or fail together. The Book of Acts is full of phrases like “they grew in number” and “they were all together” – everything was about community and about their fellowship in the Holy Spirit.
Aren’t all of us also in this thing called Christianity together? Although our world looks very different today than it did 2000 years ago, we face many of the same challenges as the early Christians – persecution by non-believers who think us foolish, temptations of vanity, pride, and sensuality, struggles in raising our children to love and serve God above all. None of us can walk this road alone, and all of us are called to worship, to pray, and to sacrifice together, just as the early church did. Whether we are at Mass, which is the pinnacle of this communion that we have with one another, or out in the world, we are united by our Catholic faith and can rely on each other for support and encouragement as we grow together in faithfulness to Our Lord.
So, maybe you won’t let me hold your toddler at Mass, and that’s perfectly fine However, as I said before, I would challenge us all to reflect on our ability to give and receive acts of charity in a personal way. Many of us are very good at serving the community at large – we are on the PTA, we serve at soup kitchens, and we generously support wonderful charities. Today, I am thinking about how we serve one another personally within our church communities, for the purpose of “building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:12-13).