(Everyday Bravery, Day 8)
Note: this post was meant to go up Sunday evening. But then I – you know – got completely wrapped up in the presidential debate and let the finishing touches on this slip. So the post will be better read if you pretend it’s Sunday. Yesterday. There you go.
For the past few years, my parish has been hosting this thing they call “Church Chat.” When they instituted it, they changed the times of the Sunday Masses so that one is kind of early and the other is pretty much late, and in between they scheduled faith formation classes for the kids and Church Chat for the adults. (This year they’ve even opened the nursery to Church Chat participants, so parents can drop their older kids at faith formation classes and their toddlers and babies in the nursery.)
There’s a little “café” where you can purchase coffee and bagels, etc. You can sit and visit with your fellow parishioners. And then you can partake in the Church Chat.
(This is where my Protestant friends are heaving a sigh of unimpressed, because nurseries and adult Sunday School are everyday, everywhere things to them. But my Catholic friends might well be shocked. “You mean your parish is making a real push for adult faith formation? With BABYSITTING?”)
I know. It’s crazy.
(People who make decisions at parishes: This is a good idea. You should see if you can pull it off too.)
Anyway, before this year I never even considered attending, because: (1) How was I going to get away from all my little kids in order to be there? (2) “Church Chat” is a dorky name. (3) I’m a brat who thinks she has no need for adult faith formation. And (4) How was I going to get away from all my little kids in order to be there?
Fortunately, this year my (1/4) concern was easily dispensed with because my oldest started faith formation classes himself. So my husband and I rearranged our own Sunday schedule. Now we get up early, go to the 8am Mass, and I stay at church for alloftheabove while Brennan and the younger three go home. By the time our oldest and I get back, Daddy has made pancakes. (WIN all around!)
Even more fortunately, my (2/3) concerns were also addressed. This year we’re viewing and discussing Bishop Robert Barron’s “Pivotal Players” in Church Chat – and have you ever seen Bishop Barron’s work? (The people at Word on Fire do an incredible job.) It’s beautiful! So beautiful I got over my snobbery in a flash. I now look forward to Church Chat every week.
Okay – my apologies. That was a very roundabout way of getting to the point of this post. Today is Sunday, and as I said at the beginning of this Everyday Bravery Write 31 Days challenge, each Sunday this month I’ll be posting on the parts of the day’s Mass readings that feel to me like calls to bravery.
This week, the Gospel reading stands out to me:
As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”
The thing that jumps out to me from this reading is the nerve of the ten lepers. Have you ever been in the presence of someone who is holy? I was once about 15 feet away from Pope Saint John Paul II and the feeling was just incredible. I swear he radiated holiness. In the years since, the only things I’ve experienced that have felt like that are Eucharistic processions. (That is, a group of people proceeding through a physical space with the Eucharist – the very Body of Christ – held aloft.)
When you are in the presence of someone holy, you feel it. I can hardly imagine what it must have felt like to see Jesus Himself.
And yet, these men approached Him. They called to him from a distance, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” This is no small thing. First, it must have taken great nerve to speak to Jesus at all. And second, to have had the wherewithal to ask Him for his help.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to ask for help. I hate to humble myself to that point. I hate, too, to acknowledge myself as weak and flawed. Yet what else can one do in the very presence of God?
This week and last in Church Chat, we’ve been learning about St. Thomas Aquinas. Last week we saw the portion of the film that told of Christ speaking to the saint from the Cross, telling Thomas he had written well and asking what he would like in return. This week we had a discussion question that asked us how we would answer if Christ asked us that question.
To be honest, I can’t imagine having the nerve to answer at all.
I have a hard time confronting the idea of God, knowledgeable as I am of my weaknesses and wrapped up as I am in the things of this world. It’s so hard for me to make that mental and spiritual leap – away from the mundane, the known – to the divine. I don’t know how I could handle an exchange with God Himself.
St. Thomas Aquinas answered Christ’s question with, “Nothing but you, Lord.” The one leper, the Samaritan, did something similar in returning to thank Jesus for healing him. I’m afraid I might be more like the remaining nine, who moved on without that up-close exchange.
In these few weeks of Church Chat, I have felt an opening – a window into a personal rawness in the presence of God that I haven’t felt for a long time. I want to approach God; I want to seek Truth. As one of my fellow participants put it today, “I’m thirsty.”
I think that approaching/seeking can require great bravery. It’s much more comfortable to sit in our everyday lives, on a level that we’re used to, grappling with the things we’re confronted with day in and day out. It’s hard – frightening, even – to try to move out of our everyday, to grapple instead with personal weaknesses and universal truths.
I hope I can be brave enough.
This post is the eighth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.
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