Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Morning Mass

Kate woke up on Sunday morning at 8:30 am and began to get ready.  She put on a nice outfit, styled her hair, and put on some light makeup.  Kevin rang her doorbell at 9:50 am, and she got in the family van.  Kevin’s mother greeted her as she took her seat. 
They drove to a large house on a cul-de-sac this time and everyone got out and headed inside.  There were several families with missing parents, but Kate didn’t know if it was related to the disappearance of Kevin’s father or not.  They headed down the stairs and took their seats on folding chairs in front of the same wooden table that they’d used at the other place. 
Father Donovan greeted her as she headed up the aisle.  She looked around and noticed that both Deborah and Gregory were there, too.  She recognized some faces from that night at the cemetery, but there were more faces she didn’t. 
A woman and two boys headed up to the front.  To the side of the altar was a piano, and one of the boys slid behind the keyboard.  The woman directed everyone to stand and led them in a hymn.  Kate didn’t feel comfortable singing along, so she stood there and simply took everything in.  The song was, “Now Thank We All Our God”.
Someone got up and read passages from the Bible.  The first passage was from Jeremiah and it was talking about celebrating because God was going to bring back people who were far away and would console those who were sad.  The next passage was from Psalms 126, and instead of reading it, the group by the piano sang it..  Kate noticed that it seemed almost like the words that would have been spoken by people who were coming back home after a long time.  What struck her was this particular line from the Psalm, “He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”  It almost sounded to her like God must be speaking right to the hearts of Kevin and his family, promising them that he would return their father to them soon.
The next passage was from Hebrews, but Kate didn’t really get much of it. It was just talking about priests being appointed by God rather than men and that somehow Christ was like some priest named Melchizedek. What a weird name, she thought. After this, everyone stood up and the choir sang Alleluia.  The priest walked over to the podium and everyone stayed standing as he read from Mark Chapter 10.  It was a passage about a blind man who heard that Jesus was passing by, and so he cried out many times. People kept telling him to be quiet, but the blind man just kept shouting for Jesus to notice him.  Finally, Jesus did – and then he asked the man what he wanted.  The blind man said he wanted to see, and Jesus gave him sight.  After that, everyone sat down.  Kate was glad. Her feet were hurting.
“We are all blind, just like that poor beggar in the passage.  There are really three kinds of blind people in this world.  There are those who know they are blind and want to be cured, there are those who do not know they are blind and so don’t even know they need to ask for help, and there are those who are blind but think that God doesn’t care enough to heal them.  The beggar in the story was one who not only knew he was blind but he wanted to be healed of it.  He wanted it so badly he didn’t care what other people said to him.  He was going to seek God’s help anyway.  So, he put his faith in God’s love being bigger than his problem and he kept shouting God’s name.  
There’s a lesson for all of us in this.  When you know you are in need of help, when you know that you are blind, you must keep shouting to God for help.  Keep praying, and believe that if you continue to pray God will eventually turn your direction and heal you.  It isn’t that God couldn’t heal you the first time that you cry out, but He needs to be sure you want the healing badly enough that you aren’t going to quit on him when the going gets tough or he asks you to do something hard.  He needs to know you are committed to getting it, no matter how uncomfortable the process of getting what you need may make you.  He also wants to be sure that you know that this is something you could not achieve on your own,, so that you do not use it as a means to boast about yourself, but turn it back to God and praise Him instead.
We are all in need of something in this room.  We are all in need of being gathered to God, of being rescued from our dark places and spaces, like the blind man and like the exiled Jews from Jeremiah.  The only question is – do we acknowledge that need and are we ready to persist in seeking it? Do we accept God’s invitation to come join him, even when other people try to silence us or prevent us from going? Are we willing to brave public humiliation and ridicule? If we aren’t, then we don’t want it badly enough.  I challenge you today to find your own blindness and confront it, bring it to Christ and don’t give up until He agree to heal you of it.  Whatever that blindness is, God wants you to be healed.  He just needs to be sure you are willing to do what it will take to get there.”
The rest of the Mass reminded Kate of some kind of odd Simon says game, with everyone following the leader and sitting, standing, and kneeling at seemingly random moments.  She watched Kevin’s family go through communion line, and Father gave her a blessing.  Before she knew it, Mass was over.  Kevin’s mother left to take the younger kids home while Kevin and Kate stayed for the meeting.  She noticed that Gregory and Deborah stayed behind as well.
Father Donovan began, “I am glad that you three have accepted your invitations to join our ranks.  I know it is a lot to take in, but we are here to help you.  Each of you has a sponsor, and today we will begin teaching you what you need to know to join the fight.  As you know, this is a dangerous time for Christians.  Some of the families of our faithful have had loved ones recently taken from them without any notice or any reason provided.  We don’t yet know where they are. I want to be very honest with you.  Joining our rank could result in that same thing happening to you or to someone you love.  This is a battle, and I urge you to keep that in mind. Never relax your guard, even for a moment.” He paused to let that sink in and looked around at the group.  No one seemed bothered by what he’d said.  He nodded as if satisfied.
Father continued, “So, let me start our work by asking you what passages that you heard today really spoke to you? Did you get anything out of them?”
Kate raised her hand, and Father nodded for her to speak. “I was thinking to myself that it sounded like God was speaking to Kevin and his family, like he was promising them that he would bring back their dad soon.”
“Very nice, Kate.  Anyone else?”
Gregory held his hand up.  Father called on him to speak, and Gregory said, “I liked the part where the beggar wasn’t afraid to keep calling out to Jesus no matter what anybody else said or did.  He was more confident of God’s ability to help him than he was afraid of what other people would think. I want to be like that.”
Father said, “That’s an excellent insight. Most of us allow our fear of what other people will think of us to rob us of many of life’s greatest joys, and sometimes even of God’s great miracles.  As warriors of Light, you are going to have to get used to forging ahead with what you know to be right and what you know to be God’s will even when the people you love most try to stand in your way because they are afraid for you, or mock you because they don’t understand what it is that you believe. “
“This is an important lesson for you, recruits.  If Satan can’t convince you that he doesn’t exist, he’ll try to put obstacles in your path to serving God. If he can’t make you stumble with those, he will go after the health and the livelihood of those you care about most.  He will attack your loved ones because that is where you are most vulnerable, and he will use them to go after you.  Expect your best friends, your closets family, even your boyfriends or girlfriends to try and talk you out of this if they find out what you’re up to.  You are more likely to be betrayed by them than by anyone else. However, my future warriors, this isn’t cause for concern.  Nor does it mean that you need to stop loving others or stop caring about people.  What it does mean is that you need to develop such a close relationship with God that even when those things happen Satan can’t shake your tree.”
Deborah raised her hand and Father called on her, “Yes, Deborah?”
“How do we develop a close relationship with God?” she asked.
“That is quite possibly the best question I’ve been asked yet,” Father said, smiling at her.  “Your pathway to developing a close, personal relationship with God lies in developing a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time each and every day in prayer.  Prayer is just a conversation with you and the Lord.  Nobody likes somebody who does all the talking, so be sure when you enter into a conversation with God that you leave plenty of time for Him to talk back.  In other words, put some silence into your prayers,” he said.
He spent the rest of the hour teaching them a method of prayer called the Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading.  It used Sacred Scripture as a starting point for the prayer, reading it slowly and multiple times until something jumped out at you about the passage and then reflecting on what God was trying to tell you in that particular passage at that particular moment. 
The idea of having a conversation with God was a new one to Kate.  The idea that He might talk back to her was equally new, but also strangely exciting.  She wondered what he would say to her or what his voice would sound like.  She wondered if it would be really loud and booming or soft and gentle.  All the pictures she’d ever seen painted of God had him as an old man with white hair, but all the pictures she’d seen of Jesus were of young men.  She wondered which of the two was closer to the truth.  Before she knew it, though, it was time to go home.
She and Kevin talked about Lectio Divina on the way home.  Kevin admitted he wasn’t very familiar with that method of prayer.  He knew most of the standard Catholic prayers, though, and often used these to start things.  He gave her a small prayer book full of traditional Catholic prayers for the morning, the evening, and midday.  She found herself eager to be alone so she could try them out. They pulled into Kate’s driveway and Kevin walked her to the door.  She thanked him for the ride and for the book.  They hugged goodbye and Kate headed inside.

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