It was Christmas Eve Mass a handful of years ago. We were “running late”, which meant we arrived with only 45 minutes to go until the service and the place was a total madhouse. Alas, we were shuttled away from our sanctuary to the illustrious gym space, where the second mass was being held for the overflow. It was a fine Mass and I tried keeping a positive attitude, despite being 6 months pregnant and in discomfort. Thanks to the generosity of some kind parishioners, I enjoyed a seat while other members of my family stood along the wall. Merry Christmas. My heart didn’t feel so merry. We were the regular parishioners. We were there every Sunday during the year. Shouldn’t we have priority seating? Who were all these other folks crowding our church? I clearly wasn’t letting the Newborn King reign in my heart that day.
Since then, I’ve been convicted of my lofty, sinful attitude. It is one like those of the Pharisees, who looked down upon others and considered themselves morally and doctrinally superior. How sad. For with Christ’s attitude, we should instead be rejoicing on days like today. Days when the church can barely hold its attendees.
I should walk into the church and praise God that so many of His flock have come to hear the beautiful message of His Son’s birth. Alleluia! My prayer should be that He strikes the heart of a few who will feel the pull to come back to His Church again; to seek fellowship and Christ’s presence on a more regular basis. I need to look into the eyes of the beautifully-dressed children and hope and pray for Christ’s message to settle in their hearts so that they may carry on the Good News!
Pope Francis is invigorating a new crop of Catholics to return to their dormant faiths. They are awakening and returning to Mass for the first time in years. What this means for the “rest of us” sinners, is that we need to have arms open wide, ready to welcome them home and bring them encouragement on the journey. We need to shelter them and offer them a warm smile to usher them through the doors and to the foot of the cross.
Tonight when we leave for Mass close to 2 hours ahead of time, I will do my best to avoid griping and groaning and instead rejoice that we will soon be worshiping alongside our returning brethren. When pews overflow with people, I will sing praises that so many will hear His message and be renewed in their hearts. When babies cry out and children have trouble sitting still, I will pray that His Truth will still find a way into their hearts, possibly for the first time.
Haven’t been to Mass in awhile? We’ll be there to welcome you. We’ll be there for a warm smile and to save you a seat in the first row. Welcome Home and Merry Christmas!