Monday, February 28, 2011

We'll try for Two seconds

The other day during the gospel reading at mass, I had the momentary grasp of how our response to sin should always be "more grace."  Then, being human, I got really annoyed at my daughters who were having a "She's looking at me." "She's sitting next to me." silent fight in the pew and wanting me to issue an equally silent but no less heard judicial fiat against the other.  Mom glares that exceed the disciplinary needs of the moment probably are not examples of responding to sin or the near occasion of sin with more grace.  

But the fleeting thought had echoed multiple times throughout the weekend.

My husband and I had to give a witness on marriage and so we talked about how choosing a singular person in all the world to love faithfully for all of one's life was a choice to imitate God who loves each of us faithfully forever for all of time.  So we talked about how marriage is a sacrament because it is a freely chosen call to imitate God's love with one's self.  It is a mini "Yes." in the way of Mary's "yes," responding to God with a full hearted "yes."   Children are a further yes, a further sublimation of one's self to another, also designed to be for all of one's life.  Being a mom or a dad means being responsible not just for the bodies of these people, but the formation of their souls.

The mini-retreat had begun with a mass as you might expect, and the readings for the day of our talk were the familiar and seemingly comforting scene of Jesus telling the disciples to let the children come to Him, "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."  I'd always associated that for some reason with big sins. In my mind, I could see murderers, abusers, drug dealers, and all sorts of people who corrupted and embraced acting in ways that were violent, hard and cruel, being handed out the millstones and looking out at the ocean. 

But Saturday, the millstone hit me with the hard reality that I'd wanted to keep that reading's meaning at a safe distance. Jesus doesn't speak from a safe distance, He is intimate always, and this applied to parents, it applied to us all, it applied to me and not just with my own children but with everyone.  Wasn't it obvious?  Hadn't Christ been explicitly clear? We had to work to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, to scrub from our words, thoughts, deeds and non deeds, that which would encourage sin.  Our marriage and our parenting had to reveal  how God loves by being unconditional, infinite, beautiful, lavish and luminous and (I mused to myself), as tireless. 

"Does a mother forget her baby?" the Old Testament readings had asked, yet even if these forget, God would not. If there was one thing the 21st century indicated in abundance I thought mournfully, it was that a mother could forget her baby, but that God's love was greater than this in all ways,that God's love was always available and always stronger than even death. Musing on the thought that we were permeable by God, and that His grace surrounded us, saturating whatever portion of our lives we willingly allowed; I suddenly looked at the air as if it were tangible.  I believed this.  We believed this.  We professed it, we celebrated it and yet we sat in this mass not recognizing how very pregnant the very air was with God.  I felt as if I'd forgotten or somehow walked by a great piece of art for 44 years and never stopped to look.   All of this mess and struggle and minutia and all the big things that happen and the mess in between those extremes, God uses to whittle away and break down all the places in our hearts and minds and lives where we say "No." to love, to get us to only say "yes" to God. 

And with that flash of insight distilled in the thought, "We must always say yes." I fell back into the mire of my distractable mind. The air became the unnoticed again. The whole rest of the mass was a mess.   I found a near infinite desire to say "No!" as each of my children seemed to be wearing amplifiers as they squirmed in the pews.   One asked to go get water, another to go to the bathroom.  The baby cried and two who knew better played kneeler wars. I knew I was seeing with sinful eyes when I interpreted every action around me as a distraction.  Fighting to pay attention to return to that moment, I knelt and almost instantly one child tapped me on the shoulder and complained that his sister was distracting him from praying. I suggested, "Close your eyes."  and then hissed, "You're distracting me!" as he poked at me again because he could hear her singing.  

"Getting it" had been a gift after 44 years of living, in that sliver of the mass when I'd forgotten myself and quieted my mind enough to let God in that crack in my heart. I was going to need help with that lavish unconditional tireless example.  Living it would be the hard slugging process of obedience to that understanding, to that moment to allow for more cracks, more grace, More God.   

I could almost hear God say, "See you next Sunday.  We'll try for two seconds."


Natalie said...

Oh goodness. We've got two boys right now and I can hardly remember what the priest said in homily and I have no memory of the readings (granted I have pregnant brain so my memory is shot) but I'm hoping once the 3rd, 4th, 5th how many children come along we'll be able to have two seconds as well.

MightyMom said...

I started taking Sonshine to Mass with me, just us two, on Sat nights when I sing in the choir. This way he gets to go to Mass and it's not QUITE a 3 ring circus....more like a ring and a half....

I'm going to have to reread this before I go each week....because it's really distracting having him with me....really.

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