Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Tale of Messiness and Mercy

As we all climbed out of the car in the parking lot we looked a little disheveled to say the least. We had been visiting family and friends all week, staying up late, running all day to try to fit in everything we most wanted to do on our short trip, and already that day, driving for more than an hour much of which was spent in stop and go traffic, to get where we were, to squeeze in one more essential thing before heading back home to Florida.
The building loomed impressively before us. It was made all of stone with beautiful domes, archways, and tall stained glass windows. We walked around to the front and stepped through the heavy wooden doors. The inside was even more overwhelming than the outside had been. The interior was covered in artwork. Beautiful paintings and statues met our gaze no matter where we looked. The high ceilings glittered with golden mosaics and we stared awestruck around the majestic Cathedral before quietly filing forward to find a seat right in the middle, enveloped in a sacred silence.
It was the Vigil Mass for the second Sunday of Easter and we were blessed to be celebrating it at the Basilica Cathedral of St. Louis as a sort of finale to our spring break vacation of visiting family and friends. The car was packed for our long car ride home which we would begin immediately following the Mass. We were all tired from our week of fun and near-constant activity and the truth was, we looked it. As I marveled at the splendor of the architecture around us I couldn’t help but notice how dramatically we contrasted with the church’s exquisiteness. I looked at my family and noticed my oldest daughter’s red, puffy eyes from the tears that had been coming on and off ever since we said good bye to her aunts and cousins earlier that morning. I noted my oldest son’s sloppy hair and equally sloppy rumpled t-shirt. I was not surprised to see my middle daughter’s skirt was practically sideways from her twisting and squirming in the car on the way to Mass. And the remnants of lunch crusted to my youngest son’s sleeve, where he had obviously used his shirt as a napkin, didn‘t surprise me much either. Adding to my humility was the little stab of guilt I felt when I realized that the pants I had laid out for Tim to wear on our journey home were the ones with the bleach stains all over the front. Then, as if we did not already present quite a motley crew, I noticed during the gathering hymn that the baby had a look of concentration on her face, which was rapidly turning a deep shade of red. I sighed as I grabbed the diaper bag and tried to discreetly slip out to change her now full diaper.
I spent the rest of the hour in the back of the huge Cathedral trying to keep the baby quiet as I attempted to participate in the celebration of the Mass before me. I found myself wondering if it was even worth being there, not looking or feeling like I belonged in such a place of holiness. I was consumed with my wandering thoughts and I was continually distracted by the baby and the sights all around me. Before I knew it, it was time for the homily and I heard the priest speak lovingly of God’s great mercy reminding us that it was Divine Mercy weekend. As I listened, it hit me that perhaps this experience was the perfect metaphor for God’s love and mercy. Here we were, looking a bit scruffy and worn out, looking a little out of place, in this sacred and beautiful space. Our imperfections were so obvious and yet we were not turned away at the door, instead we were welcome to enter into the beauty and splendor of the majestic Cathedral. Interiorly, I realized we are often as sloppy and unkempt as we appeared externally that Saturday evening but still we are welcomed, invited even, to take part in the beauty and splendor of God’s Church, and God’s perfect love and mercy. Though we will never be worthy, we are invited to know God and we are loved by Him, forgiven by Him, unconditionally and without fail. So, despite our haggard appearance I knew there was no better way to acknowledge and participate in the gift and blessing of Divine Mercy.

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