What really matters?

It was holy Saturday, about an hour and a half before the Easter Vigil. Earlier in the day husband and I had driven from Chicago to Notre Dame, to attend the Vigil Mass at the Basilica, and to spend Easter at Our Lady’s University, where both of us have many fond memories (he from law school and his conversion, me from the early days of our relationship). 

We arrived at the Basilica 1.5 hours before the vigil Mass started, and found to our shock, that all of the pews were filled, and the only available seats were behind the altar, in plastic chairs. The two remaining seats we were able to find were mainly obscured by a pillar and a large palm tree, lilly, and gardenia floral extravaganza. Needless to say…I was irate. We had travelled two hours to spend the Easter Vigil behind a palm tree. I sat stewing in anger and a general malaise for about 40 minutes; not noticing the beauty of the choir singing preludes, or of the joyful anticipation of what we were about to celebrate. I even toyed with the idea of leaving in protest, because we didn’t have the seats we wanted. I was knee-deep in self-pity and irritation, when about fifteen minutes before Mass began, a thought occurred to me. 

Two weeks ago was a Mass I planned for work, a Mass of solidarity with Iraqi Christians. These are people who are being religiously persecuted and destroyed in Iraq for their belief in Christ. In that country, Christians gathering on holy Saturday to celebrate the Easter Vigil do so at their own peril. Many churches have been bombed, some during Mass, killing many people who desire to do exactly what I am free to do any day of the week; worship my God in peace, freedom, and security. 

Here I was, in a beautiful, holy, safe place, with Jesus present in the Eucharist, and his triumph over death and sin in the air, and all I could think about was how put out I felt about sitting behind the palm tree. Thankfully God was not going to let me get in the way of my praising Him; he helped to snap me out of it and realize what really matters. 

I am free. I can worship Jesus Christ and celebrate his victory over sin and death any where and in any way I choose. I can come to church confident that I will not be murdered during or after Mass. Not all of our brothers and sisters in Christ can say the same. God gave me the blessing and kick in the pants I needed, to be able to see my own complacency and selfishness when it comes to worship. 

Inspired by the courage our Iraqi Christian brothers and sisters (and indeed all persecuted Christians) have in the face of so much oppression and violence, I was able to get over myself, and enter fully into the celebration of Jesus’ rising. 

How good that we have a God who says, “Behold, I make all things new.”

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