Worshiping with Jesus

We have a 5:00 pm vigil Eucharist on Saturday evening. It has been, in my experience, a small group since we began gathering in person again. Maybe 6, 8 tops; sometimes 4. At the heart of that number has been a group of 3 whose situations have just changed so that they cannot come anymore (as far as I know). Nowadays, in churches the size of ours, little changes like that have out-sized repercussions.

At 4:50 today there was only me. By 4:55 I was joined by one person and by a second at 4:58 or so. Each of those present were persons whom the parish has been helping as we can. By any point of comparison they have very little, and one of them has recently been homeless for the first time ever. As we were about to begin they said more than once something like, “It’s a shame that no one is here,” and I would respond that, “You are here and that is enough.” But I must confess, to my own shame, that inwardly I was wondering things entirely too much like: What are we doing here? Is this worth doing? and the like.

They weren’t very responsive on the prayers. One could speculate why, but that would not be either fair nor immediately helpful. But as we proceeded, through the readings and the (changed on the spot) homily, heading toward the Prayers of the People, something began to happen. Spontaneously, first one and then the other, one from her seat and the other moving around the Chapel, began telling the stories of real people who need God’s help right now. With great energy. A man on hospice, sent home to die. His helper who is worried about being without work and a place to stay after his coming death. A girl hit by a car up the street the other night. And more. They did not ask for anything on their own behalf. They asked for others, on behalf of others. And we prayed for them.

By the time the bread and wine were on the Table and I was praying the Lord’s words from the Last Supper, I kept thinking: “I am saying Jesus’ words here in the presence of Jesus. In the presence of Jesus.” These two children of God themselves have needs that we have never been able to fill completely. Of course not. And so, at times I tell you honestly, they have driven me to distraction, to the point of not knowing how to respond.

I was reminded of Mother Teresa’s words, the like spoken more than many times during her life and work:

Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.

And He can be quite distressing in the disguise of the poor. But He is also blazingly unmistakably present.

In the homily I spoke about recognizing God’s presence and action in life even when life is hard, as it had to be for the 10 lepers Jesus met and talked to and saved in the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. And then I looked in front of me, and I saw.

And I knew why we were doing what we were doing, and how absolutely vital it is.

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