Monday, November 14, 2011

Faith Like a Child

I learned so much by not learning anything at church today.

Let me explain...

When I was growing up, there was an unadvertised sign that read "Reserved for the McGonagle Family" on the 2nd pew on the right side of the church.  In other words, without a post, the congregation knew that our family would be sitting in that pew come Hell or high water.  (Both of which make me very nervous to think about, by the way.)  Anyway, the point is, we always had ringside seats for Mass and there was no escaping the "eye of the church" - eye of God, eye of Monsignor Stuardi, eyes of the congregation on our backs.  We were in plain view, so it was next to impossible to squirm, daydream, slouch, or generally be unparticipatory.

Today, my family doesn't have a secret reserved seat but we do sit in the front of the church most times. Often one or more of us is involved in the service - reading, serving the altar, playing in the Praise Band - so it makes sense for us to be up close.  I like it there very much.  Not just because I'm 4' 10" and can't see over people's heads otherwise.  But I like it because I feel "a part."

Today we were running late and the front half of the church was stanchioned off for the first year Confirmandi.  We took a seat in the back third of the church and had just enough time to say a quick prayer before the opening hymn.  I felt disconnected immediately but I didn't comprehend it until about halfway through the service.  Until that realization, this is how I spent my time:

Opening Hymn - leaned over to tell my daughter that this was not my favorite song and that the band was out of rhythm

1st Reading - listened briefly but in kind of a prideful way as the reading was about good wives and how they should be cherished...I'm pretty mortified to tell you that but as long as I'm being honest, might as well come totally clean

2nd Reading - wrote out three separate checks for the collection since I ran out of checks the last two weeks

Gospel - Okay, here's where I started tuning into the fact that I hadn't been receiving God's word AT ALL so far.  So I listened to the Gospel.  But then a baby with a sippy cup in front of me was so cute, my attention shifted again.

I thought, "Lord, I'm like an unfocused child right now!  I can't see what's going on, so my attention is completely lost.  My concentration is negligible and I'm more interested in the kids in front of me and what they're laughing about than I am about Your Word.  What is wrong with me???"

Then it hit me...I am like a child...compared to the history of the world and God's divine presence, I'm more like an embryo.  I know so little and need so much.  I need constant bombardment of His presence to keep me centered.  And I'm finding when I don't begin my day with His word and my prayers...immediately...I do not rely on Him as much throughout the day. I'm like a little toddler needing her parents time and attention every waking moment.

So, of course, once I thought through all of that (and grasped again that I was mentally writing this blog rather than focusing on the sermon), I began tuning in without needing to see the action.  I listened with my heart rather than just my ears. And I loved Matthew's gospel and the ensuing homily which detailed the servant who doubled the money His master had given him...as we should double the gifts our Father gives us each and every day in gratitude for our blessings.

So hopefully, I am multiplying my gifts by writing this little piece today, for you to reflect on and possibly enjoy as you think back on your church experiences.  As a final, funny note, I have to mention that at Communion when we sang the refrain of the praise song, I laughed aloud:

"They say that I can move the mountains and send them crashing to the sea.  They say that I can walk on water if I would follow and believe...with faith like a child."

How precious that God knew this child would need a resounding confirmation that the messages being received are really there.  Never thought I'd be stuck in the terrible two's still at 43...

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