Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 2, 2020

So, how do you feel about our church, or any church for that matter?  I imagine you have some pretty solid opinions on the subject. If I asked you to tell me about it, you might mention the children’s ministry or the mass times. Perhaps you’d tell me it’s not as important as it used to be. Or maybe you’d excitedly share about your small group, one of our meaningful outreaches, or your favorite priest even (maybe it’s me!?)! Truth is, if we posed that opening question to a roomful of Christians, the answers would probably be as varied as the number of people in the room. That is exactly what happened yesterday at our Annual Town Hall Meeting.

We gathered, in the midst of Lent, and our pastors allowed everyone to be heard. (That, in and of itself, is a minor miracle for a Catholic parish!) Most often, no one asks, inquirers, or even cares about your opinions. It is all about the priest. But, not at Saint Miriam and yet, sadly, for much of the time – even after hearing all the great things God has done, and is still doing, at Saint Miriam – it became quickly all about me.

Lent is tough, I know. The Devil (and the devils) do their best to destroy what God is doing. And, truth be told, the more you do to serve, the larger the attack. I have been preparing for it because it happens every Lent. We lose some people, and we gain some, and some are hurt and mostly it is because it becomes all about me.

Church is not all about a single person. It’s not about me, as the pastor, or the greeters, or the perfect music leaders. And truthfully, church isn’t even all about you! Church is bigger than one person because Christ called the church a body. A body of believers who gather together as family! A group of Christians who choose to be in one place so they can worship Jesus together, focusing on Him. That is what we try to do every day, every week, and every year God allows us to be here. But, in our brokenness, it is often not about the collective, but us as individuals.

We spent an inordinate amount of time this past Sunday debating pews vs. chairs and almost no time seeing the greatest financial gifts we have every received from some amazing and generous donors; One who gave us a property worth somewhere around $600,000, and another who is repaving roadways that would cost us over $100,000. Instead of being awed and grateful, it was about pews. Wooden, inanimate, utilitarian objects that we sit our butts on, not to be comfortable, but to worship God and see one another. It became all about us.

He used to praise God the Artist in every one of God’s works. Whatever joy he found in things made he referred to their maker. He rejoiced in all the works of God’s hands. Everything cried out to him, “He who made us is infinitely good!’ He called animals “brother” or “sister,” and he exhorted them to praise God. He would go through the streets, inviting everyone to sing with him. And one time when he came upon an almond tree, he said, ‘Brother Almond, speak to me of God.” And the almond tree blossomed. That was St. Francis. For us, it was better to argue over benches that we once never owned.

I guess it really is Lent.

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