On one occasion while attending Mass this summer a young man entered our church whom I had never seen before. I thought that perhaps he may regularly attend one of the Sunday Masses, and as a matter of convenience, attended this particular Saturday Vigil instead. What caught my attention was that he carried a backpack with him and before Mass began changed his seat a number of times, beginning at the front right pews of the church to the back right pews, and finally settled in the front rows on the left side in view of a statue of Mary, the Mother of Sorrows. I myself became unsettled at his inability to settle down. As he sat awaiting Mass to begin he reached inside his bag and pulled from it a head band, that he proceeded to tie around his head. With images of terrorist self-sacrificing shootings and bombings so widely displayed on TV and the internet, it is no wonder that I kept my eyes riveted on him and his seemingly strange actions. The church began to fill with the usual Saturday vigil attendees minutes before the Mass was to begin. At 4:30PM the bell rang announcing the entrance of the priest who was to celebrate that Mass. I had ears on the readings but my eyes were on the stranger. At least a stranger to this Mass. After the Gospel was read and the priest began his Homily on the day’s readings, the stranger abruptly grabbed his bag, got up from his seat, that he earlier spent so much time in finding, and left the church. As he passed by where I was sitting I could see that he was dressed in rather worn clothing and in his bag was possibly all that he owned in the world.
When I returned home I felt a bit ashamed of myself for having allowed the signs of the times to instill such fear for my safety and those others attending Mass. Ashamed that, even in church, I should think the worst of another at the very moment that we are reliving Christ’s sacrifice for those who loved Him and those who hated Him.
We live in a most tumultuous time. Terrorism has raised suspicion to its highest level and reduced trust to its lowest. How then can one be grateful at this moment in history? We can find gratitude simply because two thousand years ago Christ willingly gave Himself to the cross in the midst of a world that was also filled with fear and hate. He did so for the salvation of souls that resulted in the re-opening of the once barred gates to heaven for the sake of the very creatures who did put their creator to death. How can one not be grateful for that greatest act of love?
At the foot of the cross, both on Calvary and on any alter in world during the consecration of the Eucharist, serenity enters the souls of those witnessing, and for that moment, the world’s turmoil calms. For Divine Love that settled the seas, calmed the winds, fed the multitudes, relieved the suffering, instilled light in the darkest of hearts and raised the dead, still commands us to fear not; “For I am with you always, until the end of time.’
So when seated at your Thanksgiving table, make time for a prayer of thanks to Christ, who paid the price that purchased serenity, courage and wisdom for all who believe in Him. For even in the worst state of the world His Divine serenity neutralizes all apprehension. His promise kept is a gift to all forever, for He came not solely at a point in time but for all time; and by it all is made new.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, …” – Revelation 21:1
There is no reason to fear for those who place their trust in Him. For in His coming nothing will ever be the same again.