Saturday, July 08, 2017

Here and there, not everywhere

Ah, summer vacation!  It’s a wonderful luxury most of us manage to enjoy each year.  We slip out of our ordinary place and ordinary routine and do something else, whatever that may be.  Sometimes its touring, sometimes its basking, sometimes it’s a project we have long been hoping to complete.  Even what colloquially has come to be known as a “staycation” is rooted in a break from the ordinary, even if it happens in the ordinary place.
After Mass last weekend, I had a delightful conversation with a couple who explained that they had been away recently, told me where they had attended Mass while there, and shared what they had enjoyed about it.  I remarked that this was one of the best things about travelling: going to the same Mass in a different place, with different people.  That triggered several stories from them about delightful or enlightening experiences that they recalled from past travels.
The first time I got on a jet airliner was also the first time I left the USA: it was my college semester abroad.  I was 19 years old.  I remember how fascinating, challenging, and exciting it was to go to Mass on Sunday in German churches with German people who were speaking singing and praying in German.  Boy, was I not in Alabama anymore, Toto!  Nonetheless, they were all doing the exact same thing I had been doing all my life on Sundays, and it gave me an opportunity to engage with them other than being a tourist-spectator or a paying customer.  So it quickly made me feel more at home, even that foreign country, and that foreign language.
When I was younger, the travels were frequently by car, and before the internet, Google Maps, and MassTimes.org, it could be a challenging thing to find Sunday Mass while on the road in the family Oldsmobile station wagon.  But we did it, nearly every time, and there was no question it helped give the family something to talk about in the car, and something to remember about our trip.  Sometimes it exposed us to things we wished we had at our home parish, like the large pealing bells in the crossing tower at Sacred Heart in Shadyside PA.  Sometimes it made us glad we didn’t have something at home, like the time everybody in the church linked and raised their hands – willingly or not – during the Our Father in Ocala FL. 
“God is everywhere,” people blithely say, missing the point of the Incarnation, when the eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us in order to be somewhere – somewhere we could find Him, and be with Him.   The Holy Mass re-presents that fundamental mystery in a way that repeatedly poses to us the opportunity to go to Him, be with Him, listen to Him, and receive Him in our flesh.  Or not.
“I feel close to God when I am at the ocean,” people say, or “on a mountaintop.”  Feelings are feelings and there is no arguing with them, but neither of those is where God promises He will be.  And when God makes a promise to little old us, to whom He owes nothing, He calls it  a covenant, and we know it is true.
So whether we stay or get away, the vacation that we enjoy and even need always includes holding up our end of that relationship, showing up where God makes us know He is waiting to be found.  It will enhance our time and give us something to remember and talk about, and probably even make us glad to be back here at ol’ Saint B.  There is no better way than attending Mass to obtain a blessing for your summer vacation.

Monsignor Smith

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