10 April 2012
Yesterday in church, there was a lady in the pew in front of us. As I waited for Mass to begin, I started taking in details. Her hair was dirty and straggly, her clothes mismatched and she smelled. She wore a woolen scarf and had a sweater stuffed in an olive green canvas tote. I wondered how she had arrived in this church, at this moment, together with me.
There was a kind gentleman who I recognized as the father of two of the altar servers. He had probably been to another Easter Mass and was only here to escort his daughters. Without them or his wife, he floated around the pews trying to make room for families to sit together. He bounced around like a pinball as the church filled to capacity and beyond.
In walked an elegant older lady who found a place in the pew with the strange woman but at a safe distance. The well-dressed husband arrived a few minutes later, forcing his wife to inch towards the undesirable pew-mate. Finally, with Mass beginning in moments, the kindly yet portly gentleman ended up needing to nudge into the pew. The woman in her lovely spring green jacket and gold bangle bracelet was forced to push down even further. The portly man was scrunched in about half the space he actually required, much of his girth spilling out over the edge of the pew. The stately lady tried with all her might to maintain some distance between herself and her "fragrant" friend. So they sat there, three pretty people clumped together clinging to each other and the pew while the stranger seemed oblivious to their plight.
As the Mass began the cantor asked us to rise and greet those around us. I froze for just a minute waiting for the woman to turn around. How would my kids react to her outstretched hand? How would I? I looked up to be greeted by a sweet face with round, deep brown eyes. I looked straight into her eyes trying to read her story in them. She nervously but persistently greeted every person within her grasp. She seemed to reach out with more than just her hand, as if she wanted desperately to connect with someone.
The greetings subsided and we all faced the altar. There we were- my family, the elegant couple, the portly man and the strange, smelly lady. At that moment, all things superficial faded away as we faced Jesus. After all, it was Easter and Jesus had risen for that lady who was breaking my heart as much as for all the well-groomed people crowding the church. After Mass, I would be enjoying a day with family and friends. Good drink. Good food. Good conversation. What did this lady's day hold? It brought tears to my eyes. Then another thought crept in that brought happy tears. In the end, we all have one thing in common.
HE DIED FOR US.
Not just the beautiful. Not just the church-going. For ALL of us. He offers that gift to this strange woman as freely as He does to us.
Happy Easter to her.
Happy Easter to you.