It was a small crowd. At least in comparison to what it is at times. Perhaps 200 souls gathered for Sunday evening Mass.
I try to refrain, as much as possible, from doing a lot of looking around. Focus. On worship. On the liturgy. Genuinely enter in. Honestly, with the best of my attention and intention, assist (in spirit) in the offering and celebration taking place. Open myself to the reality of the miracle and mystery of Christ’s literal living presence.
Something that I’ve come to after a long life of denial. Adamant denial. Preaching against it denial as a Pentecostal Protestant preacher.
I can’t help but to think of the condition that I found myself in on the prairie, now nearly a decade ago, as something akin to a “Road to Damascus” experience. I was knocked off my high horse. Blinded and rolling in the dust. Brought, in my own foolish zealousness, to the point where I was able, in my condition of dire need, to hear and finally see.
It’s hard not to notice some things though. It’s hard not to form opinions through observation when noticing: revealing clothing worn by some of the communicants, facial expressions devoid of joy, attitudes that seem to indicate mere obligation. And in a mix that transcends age and gender.
These observations don’t apply to all. There are other people-observations that are genuinely heart-warming, ones that grip my heart, ones that generate deep emotions that will, if allowed, result in tears on my face. Perhaps my tears should be redirected toward those whose observation makes me really wonder where their heart is during the Eucharistic Event.
It doesn’t happen all the time. It does happen often enough that I’m reluctant to speak of it. Those moments of ecstasy where crowds and surroundings completely disappear and I am beautifully lost, absorbed by the warmth of God’s love.
Just me, consumed and alone, basking in the radiation of God’s love.
I was still kneeling and unaware when the priest stood for the Benediction until I felt my wife’s hand on my back.
“Bow your heads and receive God’s blessings.”
Prayers over the people and responses of “amen.”
“The Mass has ended. Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
How could I not, in genuine thanksgiving, respond by saying … “Thanks be to God?”