He welcomes us all at Easter, which is why you get there early and squeeze toward the middle
By George Valadie
Sure enough, it happened again.
Seems to be the same every year. And I’ve been wanting to get it off my chest.
But first, let me just say I thank God we’re not God. I don’t think we’d be very good at it.
At least I know I wouldn’t.
I began thinking about it during this year’s Easter Mass. We knew it would be crowded so we planned to arrive just a little early. Thank goodness.
Extra people, extra chairs. You know how it always is.
“Party of two here.” Once snuggled in, my mind jetted back to an Easter Sunday not too many years ago when we had all the girls and grandkids at home.
Our crew — the youngest of which couldn’t wait to get back to more of their Easter basket candy — had decided to attend the 10:30 Mass, which was really going to start at 10:45 so that the 12:15 Mass could get going by 12:45.
We’d been trying as best we could to teach the little ones about Jesus rising from the dead and how that was really a bigger deal than the Easter Bunny. But far and away the most impressive Easter miracle was that we all actually got there on time. Or so we thought.
We arrived to find the sanctuary completely packed, as was the back of the church, the vestibule, and the narrow hallway that led to a room where we finally found a seat.
We and all the others who thought we had been punctual were gathered into one of those all-purpose meeting rooms like most parishes have. But on this day, it was full of chairs and a single TV screen. Our Easter Sunday Mass was to arrive by closed circuit.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t quite the same. Yes, it was Mass. Yes, it was in real time. But a big-screen TV just doesn’t deliver when you know the real thing is right down the hall.
The next year, we were bound and determined to avoid that experience, so we arrived a full 20 minutes early. The church sanctuary could comfortably seat 900 people.
When we arrived, none of the 900 looked all that comfortable to me since it was obvious ushers had done all they could to squeeze in where they could.
Thankfully, the ushers had also set up an additional 200 chairs in the vestibule, where we were able to snag a few. For our let’s-get-there-early-this-year efforts, we were closer. We could see a little more, we could hear a little better. A little.
Someone said the choir never sounded better. They were impressive on most Sundays, but apparently their rendition of the “Alleluia Chorus” was exceptionally moving.
At least I think that’s what inspired the congregation’s applause.
But it still wasn’t the liturgy for which we had hoped.
You know how it is at Easter.
A little distracted, a little removed, I found myself pondering the godliness of God.
I began by wondering from where all these people had come. Of course, some were visitors, family from afar, blessed with the opportunity to enjoy a rare Mass and Easter dinner with relatives and friends they perhaps don’t get to see that often.
I’m happy for them, I really am. That’s exactly what we were doing.
But some were not.
So I also found myself wondering why folks choose to come to church just at Easter — maybe Christmas, too — and never much of any other time.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never missed a Sunday Mass. We’ll never qualify as saints, but we’re a pretty regular family.
So I was sitting in the vestibule, wondering why every Sunday wasn’t like this one, wondering what goes through the minds of the people who seldom come, who come only when it’s special, who come on Easter — when it seems like the thing to do. I wondered how different, how energized, how much better our parish could be if all these folks were routinely active and involved. I wondered if the world might be a better place, too.
But mostly I was trying to wonder what God must be thinking.
How must it feel to be ignored most of the time? And then they just show up when it’s convenient? Do they think this counts? Do they think they can turn it on and off at a whim? Doesn’t this just irritate Him … and His Son? Especially His Son — the man died after all.
Or, I’m ashamed to ask, is it equally possible that the Father of us all is tickled to death to have everyone “home” for Easter, at Christmas, at any time? Is His house of angels and saints overjoyed at seeing all these people? Is all of heaven celebrating that the church is full, that the people are crowded, and that some have to watch on TV?
And is it possible that God is far more aggravated by the people like me? Whining. Judging. Pretending to know the God that cannot be known.
Thank God we’re not God.
Dear God: We can’t appreciate the reach of your love because ours can’t go that far. Thank you for being better than we are. Amen