I ate my slice of humble pie alongside a heaping serving of God-is-good this morning: our community on post just switched their Mass time to 10 AM, and since baby girl had my husband and I up at 6:30, an hour later we decided to drive the extra fifteen minutes to the off-post parish for Mass at 8, since our day had already started.
We walked in at the psalm and bless her heart the cantor’s voice was wavery and she was having some trouble reading the verses, and my heart sank a bit. Music is generally the most important part of Mass to me (as a choir member myself), and while I sometimes try not to be exacting in my judgments (sometimes), I’m usually easily influenced by the hymns and quality of music when I’m at Mass. I snuck a peak at the rest of the hymns for the day and was equally disheartened (nooooo not “I Received the Living God”). And looking up at the altar, I saw an elderly-looking priest and a not-young deacon and readers, I confess, I was wondering if we hadn’t made a huge mistake in rushing out the door to this Mass.
We made it through the Alleluia and the deacon did a lovely job of reading the Gospel and then the priest tottered his way to the ambo and I braced myself–
and was treated to the. most. AWESOME. homily.
He started off talking about the great love God has for us, and the Incarnation, and what the Eucharist is (Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity), and then–he started riffing on the Presentation of Gifts, that part of Mass where we’re all digging for our checkbooks and wallets and ushers are walking around and we’re singing a hymn and not necessarily paying attention to the procession coming up the aisle to the altar, or the handing over of the bread and wine. He pointed out that Eucharistic prayer starts with the priest saying, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice AND YOURS be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father,” that the bread and wine brought forward are gifts that we offer. That gifts reflect the giver, that really what we are doing is offering ourselves in that bread and wine, and that the miracle is that Christ comes down and becomes part of our gift, offers himself with us and for us, sanctifying our offering, and that then God takes that offering and GIVES IT BACK TO US, now holy and living, so that we might have grace.
This is an abbreviated version, obviously, and the written word can only do so much to convey the effects of it spoken (especially when done so by someone with such experience). But I was sitting in the pew crying, and God gently laughed at me as I sat there listening and reflecting on how appearances and accidents are nothing compared to the substance of a thing, and reminding me how when I think of something spur-of-the-moment and feel compelled–that He is guiding me, and He will see me safely through. And at the end I just wanted to jump up and clap or shout or dance and sing AMEN.
Instead I prayed that I may be a worthy offering–be made worthy, since we are never worthy on our own–and in the Mass Christ always, always hears and answers that prayer. And that, too, is grace. The Presentation of Gifts hymn had a line about God helping us and restoring us even in the face of the “grace we wasted,” and isn’t that just–exactly what happens, again and again, and always grace is the end, not the waste.
And “I Received the Living God [and my heart is full of joy]” was, for once (having been overplayed at the Basilica at ND), perfect.
Afterwards there was a Eucharistic procession, and as we walked around the block I thought about how lovely it was to have the chance to literally follow Jesus with my steps, to follow his Way, silly and a little awkward as it can feel–to have his glory displayed in earthly things, for the sake of those who do not see and yet believe but still need reminders, to have the chance to witness by doing little more than taking one step at a time.
Life is hard. Life with a newborn is hard. Trying to remember to set others first, to still be giving when it seems like every gift I have has to go straight into the baby, to take the time to be generous for my husband as well–is hard. And God knows that, and is living within me, trying to help me remember to walk where He would guide me, that the gift of self is the only gift He wants, the best gift there is, that the opportunity to make the gift is as much a blessing as the grace I receive in making it, even when it’s hard. He gives us Himself in the Eucharist, so that we might see the model of the giving, so that we might have the grace and strength to be the gift–and not just any gift, but the gift of His Body, given to others as it was given to us.
Happy Feast of Corpus Christi, y’all.