Something striking happened to me during Mass this weekend. And I never would have expected it.
It started with our priest. Father Michael Joncas, cherished priest, composer of such liturgical treasures as “Take and Eat” and “On Eagles’ Wings,” and smiling bear of a man, served as celebrant while our beloved priest was on pilgrimage to Spain and Portugal. Now, there is something quite special about Father Joncas. Warmth simply flows from him. One senses in him a faithful ease and quiet holiness natural and devoid of any hint of affectation. With a boyish grin and growing light in his eyes, we are reminded that we are all present to witness a miracle of Grace: the consecration of common bread and wine into the life-giving Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
And so, as we found ourselves warmly welcomed in the Mass’ Introductory Rites and embraced by the Liturgy of the Word, his rich baritone ushered us ever-nearer to the holy moment, the “source and summit” of the Mass and Catholic life. We were drawing nearer to the Eucharist.
That’s when it happened.
Now to be sure, at a Saturday Mass with several hundred people in attendance, it is never uncommon to hear the standard sounds of life. A dropped book. The creaking swing of the kneelers. Shuffling of papers. A stray cough. The sound of children. But outside of the beautiful music by Mary, our cantor, and Richard, our Director of Music and Liturgy, this Mass was notably quiet.
As Father raised the host and uttered, “He blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it. This is My Body given up for you.” At the very moment – the precise moment – of the consecration of the host, a baby cried. And it wasn’t just any cry. Rather, it was weak — almost mournful.
I know. I know. Big deal, you might think… The child was hungry, or gassy, or tired, right? Big. Deal.
But here is why it struck me.
In an otherwise unusually quiet and solemn proceeding, that small, solitary, earnest cry of an infant (no older than six months) at the moment of Consecration startled me into recognizing what too often I forget. It reminded me of just what was taking place. For perhaps in that lone sob was the truest appreciation of God’s broken body offered to his beloved children. Perhaps, in my mind’s eye, only in that baby’s angelic innocence could we find such a perfect reaction to such devastating Tragedy and overwhelming Grace.
This is My Body given up for you
And the purest response? The purest tears.
You see, here is what that simple cry said to me. Perhaps if my life were less distracted and obsessed with the cosmically unimportant… perhaps if my soul were less clouded with the blight of sin… perhaps if I daily and willingly entered the walk of Grace with a God who knows better than I do… and, perhaps if I truly sensed the enormous weight gracefully lifted off of my shoulders and heaped upon His… well, then, perhaps I too would cry at the moment of Consecration. Perhaps mingled tears of loss and joy couldn’t help but well up at the instant of sacrifice, the breaking of the purest Body, the spilling of innocent Blood. For me. And for you.
Yes, yes. I think so.
To fully grasp how profoundly God loves us and to truly sense the sacrificial lengths He goes to for our wayward souls is overwhelming. It is beyond human comprehension. But perhaps just a glimpse of it is enough to make us cry.
And it only took a baby’s cry to remind me.