Yesterday we attended Mass at the chapel on post. It's a relatively pretty chapel with lots of stained glass windows. I didn't have a chance to observe what the windows depicted, and I am curious. The chapel is, by necessity, a non-denominational chapel, so permanent artwork like windows tends to be vaguely religious - for example, it may depict a soldier praying. All Catholic artwork is portable, so as to get the offending idols out of the area before the Protestant service. One thing I liked was that they brought in a tabernacle, where they placed the remaining host after Communion. But for the recessional, the priest removed the host and processed out of the chapel to place it in the permanent tabernacle wherever it is. There were three chapels at Fort Belvoir, and I'm not sure what they did at the two where the permanent chapel was not in the same building. I think they just shoved Jesus in the corner to deal with Him after Mass. At the third chapel, I think someone took the host out a side door and down the hall to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel immediately following Communion.
After Mass, the lady sitting in front of us turned and introduced herself since we were obviously new. I am very self-conscious about sticking out, but, even in a Catholic community, a family of seven plus is very noticeable. And for some reason I selected a flowery maternity dress that just made me feel very dowdy...one of those dresses that screamed Catholic Homeschool Mother. I mean no offense to those who wear flowery dresses, of course. I think it's great that some women can pull off the look. I think it's great that some women can live up to what that kind of look implies to me: healthy, homecooked meals; warm cookies served in the afternoon straight out of the oven; handmade dresses on the little girls with matching ribbons in their beautifully braided hair; a calm, nurturing demeanor. Not someone who maintains order by yelling at her kids and who is happy enough that her daughters' faces are clean and their hair is somewhat combed.
The bulletin publishes how many people were in attendance at the previous week's Mass. I don't know how they count this. At Fort Belvoir, there were six Catholic Masses over the weekend and attendance generally was around 1500. Here, there are only two Masses (Saturday Vigil and Sunday morning). It's summer break right now, so you can expect a lower attendance, of course. But they listed an attendance of 210. So, when my family comes and swells the ranks by 3 1/2 %, it's a small wonder people notice us.
But you know it's time to go to confession when the offertory hymn inspires feelings of guilt. The Gospel was about the Good Samaritan, a story heard many times, a parable I think I can confidently say I understand and heed. I help people in need. There have been times I couldn't afford it, there were many times it was inconvenient, but I do this to the best of my ability.
The priest's homily echoed the message, and I proudly reminded myself of some specific occasions where I had checked this block. I am your good and faithful servant, Lord.
Then came the offertory hymn, one I hadn't heard in a long while: Whatsoever You Do.
When I was hungry, you gave me to eat.
When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink.
Now enter into the home of my Father.
When I was homeless, you opened your door.
When I was naked, you gave me your coat.
Now enter into the home of my Father.
Cool, I thought. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty: go to Heaven. I am so there. Again, images of specific acts of charity were recalled, and I was in danger of getting a bruise from patting myself on the back. But the refrain:
Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.
Gotcha! taunted the little demon in my ear. Everything you do, you do to Jesus. Everything. Sure, buying a cheeseburger for a homeless man is like buying a cheeseburger for Jesus. I'm sure Jesus is right happy with that. But let's go back to square one:
If the Child Jesus were tugging at my pant leg begging to be picked up, how would I treat Him? It doesn't matter if my back aches and the thought of stooping down makes me cringe and I'm in the middle of making dinner. If it were the Child Jesus, would I ignore Him?
If the Child Jesus left his dirty clothes all over the bathroom floor, again, would I yell at Him, again, to pick them up or would I find a more polite way to request the same thing? He may be God, but he is still a child. And children, and most adults too, need to be told more than once to do something.
And speaking of adults needing to be told more than once to do something, if the Child Jesus requested a snack or something to drink, would I jump up right away, or would I tell Him to wait a minute while I finished my blog entry? And perhaps if the Child Jesus needed to wait in order to learn that He was not the Center of the Universe (ok, so He is, but the rest of us mere mortals are not), would I commit myself to getting up in the promised five minutes, or would I forget and need to be reminded?
If Jesus were the checkout clerk at the grocery store, would I be any nicer or happier to see Him?
If Jesus were the driver of that slow-moving vehicle, would I be any more patient?
It is so easy to think of all the good I've done and feel that I'm following the Golden Rule. But I can't honestly say that I'm treating others the way I wish to be treated if I can't honestly say that I would treat Jesus the same way I treat every person I encounter, including my own family.
Oh Lord, please judge me against an unholy nation.