Strangers and Sojourners

Have you ever been in a place where you feel as though you are out of place? Not unwelcomed in a broad sense, but a bit of an intruder. The realization can come upon you unexpectedly and you enter into a liminal space where time freezes and you quickly process what is unfolding. You are entering a party at the home of a friend and you sense these folks are not your familiars. You feel under-dressed – too casual in a room full of fashionistas. A beer-will-be-just-fine person in a room of upscale wine aficionados whose vocabulary is foreign. Surrounded by discussions of foreign films among people for whom “the MCU” has no meaning. But it was your good friend who invited you and has warmly welcomed you.

The same basic phenomena can happen at church. In your home parish you are known, people chat away in the pews before Mass, and folks wave across the aisle. At the church you are visiting, there is a monastic silence with people praying or just sitting there grimly, reflecting the granite walls of their ancient and venerable sanctuary. The tone is different with a 1950s feel.

Perhaps at the same moment, there is a visitor at your home parish who is balancing the welcoming atmosphere of the community but has a sanctuary with the feel of a buzzing marketplace. Aren’t people preparing for Mass? They miss the familiarity of the stained glass, statues, and monastic silence.

Especially in church we are not like tourists at Notre Dame in Paris, gazing at the grandeur and snapping pictures while Mass is celebrated. Overdressed or underdressed we are children of God come to take our places at the family table. The ones next to us and across the table from us are fellow children of God. We have all been given dignity as a member of God’s household is not something that we deserve or earn. It is God’s gracious gift, given in love. It is Christ who invited you and warmly welcomes you from the highways and byways. “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19)

Today is the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude. The first reading is from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

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