By Mary DeTurris Poust
I know from my trip to the grocery store yesterday -- with a main aisle filled with red hearts and other Valentine's Day paraphernalia -- that the Christmas season is approaching its end (even if we are waiting for the actual Feast of the Epiphany on Wednesday). But I came across an essay today that gives us every reason to go back one more time and revisit the recent holiday and holy day.
Written by a California psychotherapist who has made an interesting journey from cultural Jew to conservative Christian (with a side trip to Buddhism along the way), the essay gives us a taste of what our faith and our church looks like to someone on the outside. And how, despite a person's best intention to lay low, a faith community can draw her into its fold in subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways.
Robin writes on American Thinker:
"Beyond the music and pageantry, what moved me the most was being with hundreds of people who loved God. Maybe some were questioning his presence or feeling abandoned. But they showed up, and that's half of life.
"It was a stirring night for this wandering Jew who has traveled from east to west, from Left to Right. As the Sufi poet Hafiz wrote, 'This moment in time God has carved a place for you,' and sitting in the sanctuary, I felt that place.
"Even though I didn't know the right words, or the hymns, or how to pray, it didn't matter. All the differences among people -- race, class, politics, even religion -- vanished. Faith, I realized, is the ultimate uniter.
"And in a heartbeat, I understood why leaders from Marx to Mao try to keep people away from God, and why they will always fail. I flashed to an image of those mothers who somehow find the superhuman strength to lift up a car and free their children.
"On Christmas Eve, I learned that this same unstoppable power exists inside all of us, especially when we stand together. As Jesus himself taught, faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain."
This Christmas Eve, my family pondered and then quickly reversed plans to attend the earliest Mass at our parish because the atmosphere is more circus-like than sacred. Even the 6 p.m. Mass we attended is typically filled to the rafters and requires extra effort to stay focused and avoid annoyance. And yet this year I found myself looking around at the people seated next to me and ahead of me. Some of them were friends, some familiar faces from other Masses, and some total strangers.
At that moment I felt filled with an incredible sense of hope, realizing that even those folks who show up only on Christmas Eve and Easter are obviously hungry for something beyond what "normal" life can provide. And perhaps someone who never comes to church any other week will come face to face with God during one of those momentary encounters and never be the same.
As the essay writer says, "They showed up. And that's half of life." She's right. God is just waiting for us to show up, whether we're in church every week or once a year. Putting ourselves in his presence is half the battle.
To read the full essay, click HERE. It's definitely worth your time, if only to remind every one of us how powerfully we can influence other people by how we welcome them -- or not -- into our parish community. H/t to Ed Mechmann for this one.