|The Thankful Leper|
I flash back to a true story in our Franciscan soup kitchen in Philadelphia—St. Francis Inn. One cold and rainy night, an old woman with all her possessions in three shopping bags sat at a table, ate a sandwich and sipped soup, got up and disappeared into the night.
When a friar was cleaning up, he picked up her bowl and something caught his eye. Beneath the bowl were four pennies. She had left a tip. As little as she had, this old woman, a bag lady, was grateful for what was given to her. It’s a powerful reminder to be grateful to God for our blessings.
Gratitude presupposes indebtedness. All of us are indebted to many people: to our parents, teachers, our best friend, our soulmate, and above all, indebted to God.
Yet at times we feel shortchanged. And we take many people for granted.
Gratitude segues into another word, “Eucharist,” which means thanksgiving—not just for good health or prosperity but thanks to God for being born and for being called to be a son or daughter of God our Father, thanks for being invited into the life-transforming centerpiece of Catholic spirituality, the Mass, where bread and wine are transformed really and truly into the reality of the Risen Christ.
This is indeed the wonder of wonders.
We go to Mass to give ourselves to God and in return to receive God.
Let me suggest that when you walk into Mass, you simply ask God, “In this Mass, show me one way I can become a better version of myself this week.”
Let's quickly rediscover the workings of the Mass. We begin with the introductory rites, especially the penitential rite. What thoughts, words and behaviors have not helped me become the best version of myself?
Listen to the Liturgy of the Word. God is the author of that Word in the sense that it contains what God wants us to know about God, God's relationship with the universe, and God's purpose for us. God speaks to us and we listen; we speak to God and He listens. Is there a word or a phrase that God is whispering into our souls? What's the one thing that will help us become a better version of ourselves?
And then the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the thanksgiving--the great Eucharistic Prayer with its last supper narrative, consecration and communion--where the Risen Christ presences Himself to us in the signs of bread and wine, and where we become one with Christ in communion and then are sent forth to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ.
The Mass reveals God's vision for us, God's dream for us to become the best version of ourselves.
Yes, the Mass is a profound mystery: God's blueprint for all creation. It is indeed the centerpiece of Catholic spirituality, an unfathomable gift to us. Embrace that gift every week.