God cares about every single person
We pulled up to church on Easter morning – all eight of us miraculously bathed, shoed, besocked, and wearing Easter finery that had managed to remain clean all the way from house to parish. I opened the side door, and a torrent of children burst out, jumping from the van, launching themselves into the air, flinging arms and legs wildly, and landing with satisfied grunts on the winter-faded mulch below. The distance between my house and church is exactly 3 miles, not that you’d know it by my children’s ecstatic response to release.
As he was squatting on the ground, post leap, my oldest son spotted a rosary. He picked it up, and immediately four siblings were clustered around here, chattering about this find. There was much agitation, and responses ranged from “Let’s keep it!” to “Why would someone drop a rosary on the ground? Leave it here, it serves them right,” to “Put it in the lost and found! The person will look there!” Happy to hear that while I may be raising savages, they’re not immoral savages, I followed them into the church, thinking about all the rich symbolism in my kids’ responses to a wayward rosary. I thought, “There’s an article for sure! All the different ways the world responds to a lost soul!” and was feeling all happy and satisfied that the tricky brainstorming section of writing was already done. Then I saw the parish’s ‘Lost and Found’ box, and the whole story fell apart.
The box was a sad looking jumble of brooches, watches, empty key rings, glasses, and, wound through all of them like a writhing pit of vipers, at least half dozen rosaries, just like the one my son was holding, knotted up in a manner that firmly spoke of a long stay in the Lost and Found. The kids happily deposited one more object into the void, and traipsed off past the doors, blessing themselves, genuflecting to Jesus once more in the tabernacle, and happily accepting the adoration of all the grandmas who live for Easter Sunday, when they can see all the children in ties and frills.
I sat down, my body in the pew, my mind at the Lost and Found box. I thought I’d been shown a sign – the rosary as a lost soul. But then, that box – was that how we were to view God’s treatment of us? Is he happy to just heap us all together in an indistinguishable stew? Sure, we were in Heaven, but we were heaped together so impersonally! Those objects had not been looked over by anyone in ages. Would that happen to us? An impersonal afterlife lumped together with other souls – no longer lost, but “found” only in the vaguest sense. Is this what Galatians meant when it taught us that there was no longer slave or freeman? Jew or Gentile? Man or woman? Is that we are all an impersonal lump of soulstuff?
Years ago, I remember someone offhandedly talking about a woman he knew who was trying to share the Gospel with him. Unwilling and unable to accept her news, he interpreted the exchange as trying to land “a big catch” for God. I recoiled at this thought at the time, knowing that God was concerned with the salvation of all souls, not just “the big ones”. However, the image of the Lost and Found box in my mind, I found myself hoping I was wrong. After all, if the salvation of some souls is more important to God than others, then it meant he looked through that jumble, right? It meant that he looked through it with a critical eye and carefully untangled some important individuals from the rest of us lot.
I put the whole thing out of my mind, and concentrated on Easter. The church was gorgeous; Father had busted out the incense, which makes me giddy and my four-year-old hysterical (“Mommy?! SOMETHING’S BURNING!”), and there was palpable relief that we’d survived another Lent, another Good Friday, and were now witness to the Resurrection. (He is risen! Alleluia!) I belted out the Gloria, despite my usual reluctance to sing publically. I went up to receive the Eucharist with a heart full of joy and peace. Kneeling down after returning to my seat, I watched person after person walk up to receive our Eucharistic Lord. Dads in ties, carrying toddlers sporting the matching clip-on version, college kids home for the holiday, conceding winter’s lingering presence in their knee-high snow boots, but thumbing their nose at the temps with their gauzy pastel dresses. The church was packed, and everyone was wearing their Easter best.
It then hit me, as I watching the communion line dwindle down, how wise Holy Mother Church is to have the faithful process up this way. Before I converted, I’d seen a whole slew of different ways to observe the Lord’s Supper. I’ve been places where plates of bread and grape juice were passed among the pews, handed from person to person. I’ve been places where they were arranged on a table like a buffet, and you walked up and helped yourself. I’ve seen the pastor with an actual loaf of bread, another one with pita, break that, set it aside, with pre-cut cubes of bread passed among the congregation. I wouldn’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a wide variety.
But this way, each individual person standing up, walking to the altar, and receiving Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity is such a marriage of the individual and the collective. When you pass bread and wine from person to person along the pews, once the plate gets behind you, you’re blind. You remain an individual. But when every person stands up, walks themselves up to Jesus, the whole parish sees. You get a powerful visual of the universality of Catholicism. There are your brothers and sisters, right in front of you. There is that pregnant woman, and you pray for her at that moment, for her health and her child. There is that elderly man, tenderly supported on his walk to the Eucharist by his equally frail wife. You pray for them, for all our elderly, and for marriages everywhere, that they should all be marked by such loyalty. There is the young man who left for college last year, and he returns to his seat followed by your prayers. We all chose to walk to Jesus through our own free will, but we are not alone on that walk. And there, waiting for us – for each of us individually – is Christ himself.
We are not rosaries, keyrings or eyeglasses, lost and jumbled up in a tangled ‘Lost and Found’ box somewhere. We are individual souls, united in Christ’s body, and he meets each one of us as our brother, our friend, and our God.