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Showing Up

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My legs could barely hold me yesterday at Mass. I hadn’t slept much the night before, or the night before that really, and my body had been reminding me of it since I rolled over to turn off my alarm clock that morning.

There are not enough hours in the day lately, which means I am burning the midnight oil. What’s more, I’m certain my physical tiredness is compounded by all the emotional up’s and down’s of late. Consequently, I found myself squirming through the liturgy like a twelve year old, focusing much more on my achy body than any of the prayers coming out of my mouth.
If you would have asked me at age sixteen why I was leaving the Catholic Church, I would have told you about the kind of disinterested Mass-attendee that I was yesterday. As a zealous young believer I felt entitled to a community that clearly shared the same enthusiasm for Christianity that I did. I wanted to be surrounded by actively-engaged worshipers, thought-provoking homilies, and music that kept everyone clapping and swaying. Amid the solemnity of my parish liturgy, I often asked myself, “Why do people even come here? Nobody looks like they actually want to be here at all….” Some of the people I saw every week never sang. Some never even prayed out loud. “Why show up if you aren’t going to participate?” I wondered.
It’s incredible how differently I view this situation today. Life has taught me that sometimes, the greatest expression of faith is showing up to Mass when one no longer has the energy–emotional, physical, or otherwise–to sing, or stand, or even pray out loud. Sometimes all we can do is show up and give God the meager efforts that we have. It’s not pretty, but it’s everything.
It saddens me to think that my judgments blinded me from recognizing the simple faith that surrounded me at Mass growing up. I’m grateful to see it now in others, but also grateful that I can give myself grace on the days when I, too, show up with so little to offer.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. Jesus also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4


1 Comment

  1. Maggi Van Dorn says:

    I really like this one, Jess, for its humility, frankness and simple beauty. It's interesting to see how much our spiritual and emotional needs shift throughout life, and what a venerable task it must be to remain ministerially present to each of those distinct periods.

    And while the church must be open and limber to these many movements, what a relief it can be for the exhausted and downtrodden to have a stable refuge and holy rest in mass.

    Love it, Jess, just love it.

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