Fr. Christian Mathis at Blessed is the Kingdom, has a weekly day of rest MEME called Sabbath Sunday. He invites us to republish a previous post and take the day off. I wrote this particular story last winter and thought that it is very fitting to the season, so I am sharing it once again.
Witness to Grace
It was a typical morning in our household. It began with the daily frantic rush to get five kids dressed, breakfast eaten and out the door by 6:45 so we would be on time for daily Mass before school and work. I stood at the door as usual waiting for my children to make their way out the door so I could ensure that everything was locked up and secure before we left. I grimaced at the snow still piled up at the edges of the porch and along the sides of the path. I admit that I have a bit of my father in me, and I like a clean sidewalk after a snowfall. I hate thinking about tracking snow and salt in the house, and I worry about the mailman slipping as he climbs our front steps to deliver our mail. I had asked my 13 year old, Justin, who usually loves to shovel and takes it upon himself to chip away the ice without being asked, to do a better job cleaning the snow off the sidewalks the day before, to which he promptly ignored my request. Now as we were in a hurry to leave and I noticed the job was undone, I offered a snappy criticism to my son who immediately took offense at my words.
As we raced down the city streets, one eye on the clock, the other on the traffic, I could feel the beginnings of a bad day grabbing hold of my spirit. Once we arrived at church, two of the boys were arguing, my daughter, Mary, was crying about her backpack, my son, Joe, was complaining once again about why we have to attend daily Mass, and Justin was shooting me dirty looks.
I always feel that the daily Mass helps me get my day off to a good start and keeps my focus on Jesus. But today, it didn’t seem to be helping. The kids were squirming and whispering and I felt irritated rather than peaceful. Justin always has to leave Mass a few minutes early to get to his cadet post on time, and usually gives me a hug and kiss goodbye as he leaves. Not today. He left without so much as a glance in my direction. I felt the tears begin to sting my eyes, as the teenage years seemed to loom forever in the future. I was failing to feel any grace in this moment. What I was really feeling was the disgrace of self-pity. I was wondering why do I bother to drag the kids to daily Mass when they don’t appreciate it and would probably rather not be there. Why don’t I just let everyone sleep for another half hour and avoid this daily struggle? Why bother?
Then in the corner of my eye, I noticed someone new in church, someone who wasn’t part of the “regular” morning crowd of elderly people. He stood out with his long straggly hair. While I was waiting for my daughter to zip her jacket and grab her backpack, I saw this stranger talking to the priest. I heard Father give a hearty “yes!” and I watched the two of them walk together to the confessional. This was a moment of grace for that man, for the priest, and also for me, the witness. At the sight of this repentant sinner, this lost sheep, this prodigal son returning to his home, the church, my heart expanded in love. It made all of my petty complaints of this early morning feel so shallow and meaningless. My mind returned to the words of this morning’s first reading from Isaiah 41, “Fear not, I will help you. The hand of the Lord has done this; the Holy One of Israel has created it.” And I did feel helped. I could see the hand of the Lord on this man and on me. I knew I had nothing to fear, that my day would turn out all right and my teenagers would turn out all right because the hand of the Lord will see to it, and he will help us.
I went home to quickly clear the sidewalks before work with a new perspective. I know that no matter what I encounter, even icy sidewalks and rebellious teenagers, that God will help me, and I am grateful. My life is surrounded by grace, and I am simply a witness.