All are welcome
All are welcome
By Tammy Townsend Denny, TI Executive Director
At an ordinary Sunday Mass a few months ago, I was sitting with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, trying to refuel and reconnect for the week ahead. It was a typical Mass. Nothing unusual, until the pastor began his homily. As his words grew, my God bubble burst. The pastor’s message was not one of Jesus’ love, but rather one of judgment and condemnation. I wanted to raise my hand and say, “Excuse me, but what about love?”
I know not all homilies will be good. Some are boring. Some are hard to understand. Some may not be a message for me. When that happens, I know to focus on the crucifix and try to remember the real reason I am there.
But this homily from this pastor, and a few of his subsequent messages, have left me deeply saddened and frustrated. I feel anger – soul-level anger. I even questioned if I converted to the wrong faith. Why did you call me here, God?
On Palm Sunday this past week, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend Mass at a different church during a quick weekend getaway. In the heart of downtown Chicago, a city of over 2.5 million people, at a parish that serves thousands of families, we were welcomed with a warmth I was craving. We could feel Jesus’ redeeming love in the air. The message from the pastor and from everyone we encountered was one of love. I left Mass feeling enriched, engaged, and connected, even though we were complete strangers among strangers.
The experience reminded me of a chapter I recently read by Catholic theologian William Cavanaugh called “Pilgrim People.”* In this piece, he says, “Salvation history is a comic love story...” He goes on to write, “Attraction to the Christian life occurs when one can see a concrete community of people living out salvation, living reconciled and hopeful lives in the midst of a violent world… The church is meant to be that community of people who make salvation visible for the rest of the world.”
Why am I telling you all of this during the Easter Triduum? I’m not completely sure. Maybe it is to be honest that sometimes I find church and community challenging. But, yet I am always totally and completely amazed when I encounter a community of people who are living this cosmic love story in visible ways with arms opened wide.
My hope is that this Easter you find opportunities to experience the cosmic love story of redemption, that you are welcomed into your community (family, church, and Theresians) with loving warmth, and that you become a witness of Christian hope and love in our violent world.
P.S. *If you are interested in reading Cavanaugh’s “Pilgrim People,” it is in the book Gathered for the Journey: Moral Theology in Catholic Perspective” (2007), David Matzo McCarthy & M. Therese Lysaught, eds.
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