My favorite part about tonight's Easter Vigil Mass, as with the service I attended last year, was the Litany of Saints. If I can link correctly, you will be able to find a great version here. The community of saints has become increasingly important to me over the last few months -- not much time, I know. I just think the idea of having an entire community of people, ancestors, saints, holy people, scholars, martyrs, pastors, parents...everyone from Jerome and Augustine to Isaac, Sarah, and Abraham...Prisca and Aquila...Peter, Paul, and Andrew...all the apostles...Mary Magdalene and Veronica...and countless others throughout the ages...all praying for us, for me -- is beautiful and powerful.
As I waited for the Mass to start tonight, I thought, 'A man died nearly 2000 years ago...and here we are today. In this church, at this school, with my life's work still stretched ahead of me, vaguely shimmering in the distance, all because of a man who died on a cross.' More than a mere man, of course; he was a God-man. But still, a man.
I panicked tonight as I saw an older, raggedy-looking man walk down a side aisle in the church. I panicked because my first thought was, 'I don't want him to sit next to me; he looks a little odd and maybe unpredictable.' But not only because of this thought -- the true source of my panic was a realization that if I do not treat people as though they are Jesus...if I am not welcoming to those I consider the least...and those who are the least...those who are or might be hurting, scared, frustrated, lost...I will go to hell. "What you did not do to the least of them, you did not do for me." Am I welcoming to all? Or only to those I deem worthy? Smart enough? Possessing of adequate social graces?
This is a hard saying for me. I like being comfortable. I like being able to reasonably predict how people are going to act. As much as I want to stretch my comfort zones, I am scared to do so. But God doesn't care whether my reason for giving someone the cold shoulder is shyness or disdain. He cares that I give someone the cold shoulder and make him/her feel unwelcome, period. And my thoughts are all known to God, too, which means that I have to work at changing my thoughts themselves, not just at putting a believable smile on my face, sucking it up, and doing God's work while wishing I didn't have to.