Tuesday greetings to all, following this Labor Day weekend. Instead of resting from labor, I decided to tackle a large painting project on my roof in Chicago; three days of painting equals some aches and pains for this 58 year-old guy. But the place looks great. And what a beautiful weekend it was here in Chicago!
Because of the weekend project, I wanted to get as early a start as possible on Sunday morning, so I decided to go to my parish's first Sunday morning Mass, at 7:00 A.M. I don't think I have ever been to as early a Mass as this in my life. That time of the morning in downtown Chicago is so peaceful. It was wonderful entering the church that seemed to be waiting for us to begin the Lord's Day. There was no music, save for the singing of the Gospel Acclamation, the "Alleluia" from O Sons and Daughters, intoned by the celebrant in a very, and I mean very, low register.
This early Mass experience will certainly not become a routine for me. But I have to admit that there was something beautiful and simple about this early Mass. I have been trying to reflect more deeply on the experience since Sunday morning. My first (ghastly!) thought on Sunday was this: "Wow, I feel so much more connected to the scriptures because the 'distraction' of the music isn't there." Can you believe I was thinking that? After all, I'm the "gotta sing, gotta pray" guy. Upon further reflection, I don't believe that it was the lack of music that caused me to be more focused. I think it was because I was sitting in the third row, very attentive to the excellent lectors and the inspiring preaching. And there were no crying children in the church; it was a quiet and focused experience for me. I found my "inner dialogue" with God's word to be better nourished on Sunday morning.
All of this is in the context of some reading and reflecting I have been doing recently about the dissolution of my "Jerry-centric" universe. I read recently that there are most probably more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on our planet. Just think about the last time you were at the beach, anywhere. Think about only those grains of sand that stuck to the bottom of your feet or between your toes. Now imagine every single grain of sand on every single coastline and beneath the waters' surfaces on our planet. We cannot even imagine what that amount is. And yet, astronomers tell us that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth.
What implications does this have for personal faith in God the creator, who sent Jesus Christ into the world to save me? It has enormous implications. There could be millions of stars (just a very, very small fraction of the entire sum of stars) that have planets encircling them that support life; and these life-supporting planets in far away galaxies just might be places that God sent a Savior to as well. I do believe that the Creator did spark the created order, the cosmos, the universe. But the thoughts and beliefs fashioned in me over the decades made for a parallel, but mistaken, belief that someone I, and we humans on this planet, were, are, and always will be the center of that created order and that all of this was created for me, for us.
I am learning more every day what it means when theologians refer to God as "totally other."
Going to Mass on Sundays, knowing that I live on a human-life-supporting planet orbiting a star that is only like one grain of sand among all the grains of sand that exist on this planet earth, makes me question so much. But it also somehow strengthens my resolve that this one guy living on Monroe Street in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States, North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe, has somehow known the love of compassion and mercy of that "totally other" Creator who became like me in Jesus Christ.
Whew. I think I needed to write all that down. Living life on this planet, in this universe, is grand, isn't it?
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.