Today is going to be my international day. I started off at 8:00am at a SPANISH mass. Liz and I are going to head out later to a Lithuanian mass and maybe a Vietnamese mass. Should be an interesting day!!
I got to St. Benedict’s at 7:45am. The parking lot was full already!!! I entered the church to find fairly full pews and the chant of the Rosary. By the time Mass started at 8:00am, the pews were packed. Ushers were sliding people in one by one. It felt like Easter Sunday or Christmas Midnight Mass!! Holy Cow…had to be over 200 people there. What an amazing community of believers. There were young men, women, families, small children everywhere! Unlike the mass yesterday in Bridgeport, the average age had to be close to 35!!
The moment I loved the most as I sat between a man with an aging face and a young pretty woman (Yes, I was in the middle of the pew!) was when we got to the Sign of the Peace, the young twenty something year old man/boy turned around to me, extended both hands to me and held my hand for just a second longer than usual as he said, “Peace be with you!”. It was so sincere and the only English I heard through the Mass.
I looked around watching an entire “young” parish fully engage with a priest I could not understand. I sure wished in that hour that I had stuck with Spanish through my college years instead of dropping it after middle school and high school. I thought about how fortunate many of the people in the church were to be able to flip flop between two languages and be a part of two cultural communities. Very cool!
I also thought about my own kids again (I tend to do that a lot!!). What made all these young people come to this church at 8am on a Saturday when none of my kids will come to Mass at any time of any day?? Was it something I failed to do or say in their upbringing? Or…was it something I did do or say in their upbringing that turned them off from church? Ultimately, I guess I have to let it go and hope and pray that I gave them enough of a foundation that when the chips are down in their life they will realize that God does really “provide graciously and generously because He knows what they need.” AND maybe they will also recognize that when things are going really well for them it might be because God does really “provide graciously and generously because He knows what they need.” But I so wish they had a sense of community, a place to meet and be with people, like all of the young men and women have who were standing all around me in St. Benedict’s.
As the priest spoke the homily, I reread the gospel in English. I wished I could understand him because he was so animated and spoke from his heart. The people in church nodded, twisted their hands a bit, relaxed back in their seats, and laughed from time to time as he spoke about the reading. The reading was from Matthew – and obviously was the same one I heard last evening at St. Andrew’s. It is the one where the owner of the vineyard pays the help the same amount of money for work regardless of how long they worked…and it ends with “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”.
I had never really understood that gospel, even though I have heard it many times, but today I reread it through the lens of “feeling screwed” and realized you only feel screwed over when you overlay the concepts of FAIRNESS and JEALOUSLY. The message from the priest last night was highlighted for me again this morning in this reading: GOD KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED AND GIVES GENEROUSLY AND GRACIOUSLY regardless of what you think you deserve or want!!!! The reading relates to something tangible, money and fair pay, but when I think about my kids in the context of going to church and seeing the value of church, it applies to that as well. I have to think that I, who needs to find quiet peace on a regular basis, can find it in a church, but I may not be any better off than my kids (or anyone else) who may find God’s peace in other places or later in life.
Just because you believe and are a follower of Christ your whole life (or at least plays the game of church and goes to church regularly) does not mean that the “last minute believer” should get anything less. In the end, we all have God’s love and the ticket to Heaven. The first believer – who has believed his/her whole life, may be the last one into the gates, while the newly believing individual, moves to the front of the line. That’s God’s grace and generosity…..it is not the same thing we know as “fair” and it may lead us to being “jealous”.
I don’t know how it will all play out in the end…but I do know it is not about FAIR, it is about the fact that God knows what we all need and he will generously take care of us.