Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sitting in the sun

My wife and my youngest son are terribly allergic to incense. Too much and they spend the rest of the day in bed with nausea and headache. And so it was with dismay rather than delight that we entered the church last Sunday to the strong smell of incense.

Thinking there was going to be more at this mass (for whatever reason, there wasn't - it was used only at the previous mass), my wife asked if we could sit in the back. I hate sitting in the back, for numerous reasons. First off, I like to sing and respond, and I like to hear the people around me doing the same. The people who habitually sit in the back are often not participating as well. And that's understandable, because with the sanctuary only raised a few inches it is difficult to see what's going on. Secondly, I think being immersed in the mass helps my kids to understand it better, and not to wander off into mental tributaries.

So we started the long trek to the back of the church. I suggested we stop halfway back, near a window that could be opened, but no dice. We wound up sitting in the last row. Now, at the time we got there, the last row was pretty much empty, so we had our choice of seats. Yes, my parish has seats, not pews. My youngest picked a seat that was in the sun. I told him to move over one seat and avoid the heat of the sun. He insisted that it would be fine, and I reluctantly allowed him to sit in the seat he chose.

All the seats around us filled in, until the mass was standing room only, and mass began a minute later. By the time we got to the first reading, my son was practically sitting in my lap. "Dad, would you switch with me?" he whispered. I thought about making him sit there for the whole mass. After all, it was his choice, against my good advice, and he should live with the consequences. It would teach him a lesson. But looking at how distressed he was, I just couldn't. I loved him too much to let him suffer. I switched with him, and spent the rest of the mass in the hot seat, being miserable.

It struck me that this is what God does for us. He loves us so much that He took it upon Himself to suffer the consequences of our bad choices, our sins, so that we don't have to. He could have said "you chose to sin, now suffer the consequences of what you've done to yourself." Instead, He dies on the cross so that we might have eternal life with Him.

Just as my son had to say "Dad, would you switch with me?" we too have to repent and ask for God's forgiveness. It is freely given, but not forced upon us. If we don't want to accept what God offers us we don't have to. He respects our will.

I know it's not a perfect analogy, but hey, when you're sitting in the hot sun, a thousand miles from the altar in a packed church, you think of these things.


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