Getting to Mass on Sunday mornings isn't the crazy race it used to be a few years ago; with all three kids big enough to take care of themselves (at least, in the key areas of eating, bathroom business, and getting dressed), the pressure is off of Knute and I to beat the clock while getting our tribe looking presentable enough for an hour in public.
We've evolved now to the point where everyone (including me and Lord knows I have some serious hair issues) is ready to head out the door early which comes in handy given that our church is packed to the rafters each week for 11 am Mass. If you want the luxury of perching on a hard wooden seat for an hour, you've got to beat the crowds.
Some weeks, we get to Mass early enough that I have time to chat with my mom (who, with a deep understanding of the nerve-wracking endurance event that Mass with three children can be, never fails to save us some space in her pew) or with some of our friends sitting near us (notice I don't walk around and chat 'em up; the old Don Thomas adage of "move your feet, lose your seat" is alive and well at 11 am Mass). But what I usually end up doing in those last few minutes before we rise and sing while Fr. processes in is read the bulletin and then read through the reflection on that day's readings and Gospel in the Misselette.
Last Sunday was the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ), and as I skimmed over the reflection, I was struck by a simple symbolism I, Queen of Literary Devices*, never really cued in on before then.
In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest takes the bread and breaks it, just as Jesus himself did at the Last Supper. Both moments symbolize and foreshadow how Christ himself was broken on the cross for us.
How on earth have I missed that simple but powerful symbol?
I sat there last Sunday (we were super early), thinking about this and about the next line - the one that really grabbed me - in that week's reflection. I don't have it word for word, but it was something along the lines of this:
Just as Christ was broken and sacrificed for our salvation, sometimes we too, in our lives, are broken and shared in one way or another to better serve the Lord.
I thought about this all through Mass (including the procession afterwards - it's a humdinger of a Feast Day) and kept turning it over and over in my mind.
Much of our modern thinking has to do with fixing ourselves - from healing our inner child to all the self-help books that are churned out each year (right in time for the annual New Year's Resolution craze). And it's not just we adults who are prone to this kind of personal fixer-upper mentality; our children are subject to it, too, from the demands of school (where being different in any way is grounds for panic and necessitates intervention tactics) to the laundry list of activities that we parents schedule for their free time (so they'll be better, more well-rounded adults who therefore have less to fix about themselves later).
But what if we've got it wrong?
What if we're supposed to be broken?
What if instead of trying to bandage and pretty up our cracks and wounds, we're supposed to embrace our flaws, our weaknesses, our sufferings, our lowest darkest moments as gifts from God?
On an ethereal, spiritual, life at 30,000 feet kind of plane, I think I knew this to be true; without darkness, you cannot know light. Without true evil, there can never be Him, all that is Honest and Good. That particular literary device, the concept of foils and opposition, I knew well.
But this idea that my hurts and sorrows and deepest moments of despair (and there have been more dark valleys than I care to count) are not burdens but the building blocks of amazing blessings - well, that's a lot to noodle through in a one hour Mass (or two hours, counting the procession).
I'm still noodling, but in a good way.
Be broken and joyful.
*I explained the difference between a simile and a metaphor to my kiddos the other day; yes, I am just that kind of a word geek.