It is not all that unusual that people will tell me that they find themselves waking up on Sunday morning somewhat less-than-excited about coming to Mass. “Father, it is so the-same-thing week after week, I find my mind wanders, I don’t get much out it, too many times I receive Communion and just keep walking out the door” I will almost always ask them, “When are thinking about coming to church, who do you look forward to seeing” – and I ask that God, Jesus or the priest not be their answer. Almost always the reply is “no one” or “I really don’t know anyone at the parish – I just park, come in, receive Eucharist, and go home.”
It is a sign that they don’t belong – don’t get me wrong, it’s not they’re not holy enough or prayerful enough, or not “like us,” it’s just not home to them or for them. There can be lots of reasons and history as to why they have reached this point – but reach this point they have.
But the thing is that they do belong. They belong to Christ. In their baptism, the priest traced the sign of the cross on their foreheads and said, “I claim thee for Christ.” So…. they belong, they belong to the Body of Christ. As St. Paul says, we are grafted in to the Body of Christ – all of us. All kinds of us, all different kinds of us. No two alike, no two possessing the same skills, abilities, outlooks, perspectives, histories. Alone we are only a piece part, together we are the Body of Christ.
It is as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, ‘it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.” He is saying, “if you are an ear and when you open the doors of the church all you see are hands and noses, don’t say ‘I don’t belong’ – rather think “OK… they need an ear.” St. Paul reminds us, “God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.”
Be you a nose, an ear, an elbow, or whatever, God has claimed you and has placed you where you are, as he intended.
And yet there are too many of us Catholics, claimed by Christ – and apart from the question of our own commitment to that claim, our own faith, holiness, and all the rest, say “I don’t feel like I belong…
Maybe they signed up, but don’t they show up. Maybe they show up, but don’t pitch in. And almost always they don’t look forward to seeing any other part of the body. It is like they show up to a place that should be home, they open the door – and there is no welcome, nothing recognizable, and it is filled with strangers. They are not sure what part they are or how they fit into the whole body. Belonging and home – they should be like two peas in a pod.
Last year, someone wrote on our parish Facebook page: “Absolutely love this community. Like coming home every time I step through those doors.” That is what I would like to have people experience when come through those doors – people who meet them, welcome them, to fulfill what is perhaps the deepest of human desires: belonging – knowing that this is home.
I can remember coming home from 3+ years of mission in Kenya, friends were driving me home, and as we wound through trees, I could see the porch light on at my home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Even from afar, it shone like a welcoming beacon. It was the sign I am home in a place I have always belonged.
It is the same moment we have seen on the evening news, in newspapers, on-line in the experience of our men and women serving overseas in foreign lands. Coming home writ large is the heavy bags dropped on the tarmac, the faces of unbridled joy, parents sweeping up children in their arms, a loved one embraced, and the moment they know: I am home.
And it is not just in the dramatic moments – if we are paying attention – it is in the everyday. A college student away comes home for Christmas, the family from a long vacation trip, a parent from a business trip – all enjoyed but finally home. Home, a place where, at the end of a long day at work or school, you can find solace, put your feet on the furniture, curl up on the couch, pet the dog, pause amidst the chaos of family and know you belong. The place you are accepted, loved, nourished, embraced. Home – where people wait for you, to hold you, praise you, challenge you, serve you, annoy you, delight you, and all the other facets of an intimate life joined together for a higher purpose.
This sense of belonging is what it means to be church, to be the Body of Christ. We are at our best when church is like family. Messy, noisy, chaotic, beautiful, hopeful, alive, and graced. Joined for a higher purpose. Belonging to a vibrant community of faith is to know the draw and gravity of the porch light, to realize you can open the door without knocking, step inside and see that you belong. It is to know the familiar, to reach over to the holy water font, to feel the familiar cool touch of the water, to renew your baptism in the sign of the cross – and hopefully you remember the words of family, hearing again God’s words to Jesus his son – personal, poignant, and powerful. “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.” These words are the blessings of belonging.
“God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.”
And it begins with looking forward to seeing another “part of the body”, to knowing their name, the smiling when you see them and missing them when they are not present.
This is a vibrant community of faith, of belonging. You are here because of the draw and gravity of our porch light of faith, hope, and hospitality.
May this Eucharist renew you and empower you that you may be that porch light of belonging for others
That they too may belong. Amen