You haven’t seen them in so long, you might have forgotten their faces – but you have not. They sat just a few rows ahead of you most Sundays. You did not often speak with them, maybe at Community Sunday occasionally, or one time to encourage them when one of their kids was having a really rotten morning. Maybe you held the door for them, back when they were hobbling after surgery.
You haven’t seen them in so long, you almost have become accustomed to their absence. Look in the direction where you used to see them; search the other parts of the church to see if they are there instead. What were their names again? How old was their youngest – last you saw them?
You know them in the way that we know the people whose days and activities overlap with ours. There are people we know from our commutes, from our shopping, from the sports we watch, and the games our children play, from our doctor and dentist visits, and from the building we work in, and the places we eat when we are out. We have something in common with those people, and we may even know their names.
But you also know these people in another way, more than that, because you have prayed with them. You have shared with them in the very Body and Blood of Jesus, God. You could tell when they were having a heavy week, or a delightful one. You genuinely wanted for them what would be good; you asked God to bless them, even sometimes without realizing.
You do not know why they are not there. Perhaps they moved away; a number of our favorite folks have, for this is a transient town. Perhaps they have been become ill, or disabled. Or perhaps they are simply not coming.
Some people are afraid, and are staying away. Some people count it as caution. Some have lost the habit, or the motivation, or the inclination. And some few might even think they are happier not coming. There is never a shortage of reasons, but right now reasons seem to hang ripe from the very trees.
You understand these reasons; so do I. But that does not fill the place these people, our brothers and sisters, have in our lives, and our parish. It seems genuinely un-neighborly just to forget and let them go. They need this, and we want them to have it. We want them to continue to be a part of this, to return to being a part of us, this unique and local reality that is the assembled members of the Body of Christ, this church.
Before you forget their faces, before you forget the places that they knelt to pray and stood to sing, kneel today in your own accustomed place, and pray for them. Pray for our loving God to convey to them the grace and power of the everlasting desire for divine intimacy and personal communion than can be satisfied on earth only here, at the banquet of the Lamb.
Ask Our Lord, Who loves them and loves us far more than we manage to love one another, to make them aware of the love that waits for them here. Ask Jesus to awaken in them the memory of His presence, His comfort, and His care, which they enjoyed and came to count on when they came together here with us. Ask the Holy Spirit to remove all obstacles that the Tempter has placed between them and our Communion, to make short and straight the path that will bring them to their places before the Lord, and close to us, in the divine worship.
Tell Mary you miss them; she understands what it is to long for someone who is away. Ask Saint Bernadette to take their hand and lead them to this holy place where they will be safe. Pray for them like you pray for your own family, for indeed they are.
You haven’t seen them in so long; but you have not forgotten them. And neither have the rest of us.