There are times when being in the back is a good thing.
You know, like when you’re at Sea World and the dolphins splash the crowds with water that goodness knows how many animals have done their business in since the beginning of the show. Or, when you’re at a hockey game the puck goes flying over the protective glass. Those are times I’m glad I’m not front and center.
But when it comes to Mass, I like being up front. I like being able to see everything unobstructed by others around me. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that there are others at Mass. It is my lack of ability to focus that pushes me to the front and why I love it up there.
This last week, we went to church out of town. When my husband left to change our child’s diaper our second child began yelling for Dad. Grabbing him and flagging down my oldest we marched out to the back. Fortunately, the doors to the church were clear glass so I could still see Mass going on. I realized something while watching the Mass.
Seeing is great.
But hearing and seeing are an amazing duo of blessing.
As I bounced my little one from hip to hip, I strained to listen to the homily and catch all the prayers being said. Small mumbled blurps squeezed through the hinges of the doors to my straining ears. And even though I’ve been to Mass my entire life I still could only participate in about half of the prayers because I couldn’t hear where everyone else was at. it was then that frustration set in. All I wanted to do was go to Mass. To sing my heart out to God and praise Him as I know how. Instead, here I was, banished to the tundra of the back hallway of the church with my children struggling to understand why steam is coming out of their mother’s ears.
I have been told by countless people that, “God knows you are trying,” “You still get all the graces”, “God understands” “He sees you’re trying to train your kids” etc. It was as these phrases echoed in my ears that God gave me a new thought to meditate one: how many other parents throughout time have had the same struggles?
I mean, have you ever tried keeping a little one quiet in a magnificent cathedral whose ceilings were made to echo the praises of God to heaven and back?
How about the sermons of Jesus? How many people were chasing their kids in the back fields while he was giving the Sermon on the Mount. “What’s he saying? What are we supposed to do? Josiah, sit down! Jacob stop hitting your brother.”
Or how about that family who heard that Jesus was in town and gathered up all their gear to go out and hear Him speak only to make it one step out the door and have their newest bundle of joy fill their cloth diaper. By the time they changed the diaper, the next one was hungry. After you give him a snack his brother starts crying for some unknown reason, then they realized it is about time for his nap. Now the fork in the road. Do they go see Jesus or do they stay and let their child sleep? They throw caution to the wind and begin the journey. Finally, hours after Jesus was to speak, they trudge in just in time to grab some fish and a loaf of bread. “What did we miss?” the husband asks the wide eyed man next to him.
Then you have the families who were so exhausted after a journey to Jerusalem for the Passover feast with children that they were asleep before their heads hit the pillow. And to top it off, their baby sleeps through the night for the first time. The next day they wake up around noon, get something to eat and head out to the streets only to hear that Jesus has been crucified. “Wait, how long did we sleep?!”
Or how often were children crying during Jesus’ synagogue teachings, or when the apostles were preaching the gospel or during the first Masses. How many parents strained to hear, fought tooth and nail to be present, who pressed onward despite challenges and frustrations because they knew that it was important for their children to be close to Jesus. I am sure many of them got the stink eye just as many of us do today for their efforts.
However, I have no doubt that Jesus knows that I am at Mass with my children just as He knew those parents were also there in the multitudes of people who first came to hear him speak the words of everlasting life. Yet, still, Jesus says, “Let the children come to me.” Let all who are weary let them come and I will give them food for the journey, I will give them rest, I will set their way. What a litany of blessings for parents!
So, as we stand outside the heart of the church with our loud and lively kiddos in hopes of returning to our lovely front pew, I have one thought to comfort me. Jesus is not restricted by the doors.
Just as the Upper Room, Jesus is not restricted by earthly things. He can pass through and reside with me, my husband and my children in the narthex. He is there offering His comfort and reassurance. He does in fact see the efforts, the desires of our hearts to fully participate with Him and to bring our children up in the faith.
He wants my children to be there. To have them there, is the most precious gift I can give Jesus and my children. And even though I may not be able to see and hear, I have to keep in mind the words of Jesus to Thomas, “Blessed are those who haven’t seen but believe.”