Penance is a funny thing. Well, not funny, but you know what I mean. It’s not the stereotypical say one Our Father, and three Hail Marys. It can be that, but it’s not always that. In the times that I’ve gone to reconciliation and received a penance to do it is usually related to what it is that I feel I needed to confess at that moment.
It’s almost never a punishment. Punishment is not the point of giving a penance. Whatever I’m reconciling has taken me further away from G-d, and the penance is supposed to bring me back; set me back on the right path.
After missing a couple of masses, I wasn’t surprised that I was asked to attend one of the daily masses this week. Sure. I wanted to get back to them, but then I realized that this week’s masses are all scheduled for 7am instead of 9. Oh boy. I can do it. I put Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in my cell phone’s alarm, and figured I could make at least one of those.
Who would have thought that Monday morning would have me up so early?
My alarm went off, and I was immediately like who set an alarm for 6:30? Oh yeah.
No snooze. Got up, got dressed, grabbed my purse, silenced my phone, and stepped out of the house. The screen door closed behind me. [I call it a screen door – there is no screen, but for some reason that’s what it’s called to me.] I closed it quietly; everyone in the house was asleep.
I was immediately struck by the cool air on my face. It stopped me, and I stood for a moment, listening to the early morning sounds.
There were none.
The air smelled fresh, the animals were still, the sky was bluish, and I was filled with gratitude that my morning was going to start with mass.
I arrived at church, and this week’s mass has been moved to one of the parish center rooms. Vacation Bible School is taking place in the church. The room is a more intimate setting. There were no missals; it’s hard to remember everything that needs to move over for the mass – the hosts, the wine, water, the priest’s vestments, the Bible, and whatever else is hidden right in front of us during the daily service.
I looked around the room, seeing the usual people who come to the daily mass, but everyone was sitting closer to each other. The front two rows were still empty. You know, you come lat, you sit in the front.
We opened with a song that everyone knew. Everyone sang.
The first reading spoke to me. It was a little depressing, but I was hoping it was coupled with a more uplifting Gospel. Numbers 11:4b-15 was Moses complaining to G-d about the people he was having to deal with. Who of us hasn’t been there? Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this? Why are you punishing me? Why am I responsible for these people?
Boy, can I relate! This week is already too much, and it’s only Monday. I have gishwhes. The kids have VBS, which for me is a lot of driving back and forth. I have this website (which I love, and I love to do, but it is most definitely work and a responsibility. We’re planning our trip, and getting everything ready for it, tying up some loose ends. For all the wonderful things happening, there is a stress that is a constant, bubbling under the surface. Every little whine or moan from someone around me grates like nails on a chalkboard, but it also picks at my patience. I really feel Moses’ pain.
The Gospel, however (Matthew 14:13-21), while representing Jesus’ pain of the loss of John the Baptist and his wanting to be alone, he is still there for his followers. He nurtures them as a parent does, putting Himself second to His people. He feeds them. And I have no doubt that as night fell, and the cold air surrounded them, he made sure they were warm. He knows what they need before they ask, and he takes care of it.
He needs his own time, but he puts that aside for the benefit of others.
I’m not that selfless.
But when mass was over, I slowly walked to my car, knowing I would have to turn around and come back in an hour to bring the kids back, and it was good.
It was exactly what I needed.