I learned how to read in first grade. I know of course today that kids are reading in pre-school and kindergarten but back when I went to kindergarten I was just playing with blocks and finger paints and trying not to pee my pants. But now that I can read, one of the things that I do as an adult on occasion is proclaim scripture at my church. Because we are a large parish and there are many volunteers for this ministry, I probably only read at mass about eight Sundays per calendar year. Yesterday was one of my Sundays to read.
Lately I’ve been struggling to find my spiritual center. Our country seems more divided politically than at any other time in my adult life. Social media is filled with hateful rhetoric and falsehoods. Neighbors, friends and families are torn apart as fear becomes more prevalent and communities seem to remain in constant turmoil.
Thinking that perhaps reading Saint Paul’s Letter to Philemon on Sunday might lift my spirits, my hopes were soon dashed as I encountered our ultra-conservative priest and deacon in conversation. Ugh – even in the sacristy the politics sounded narrow-minded and judgmental! Furthermore the other reader was a no-show, so now I had to fill in for her, which I wasn’t prepared to do. My annoyance was at full throttle. Church suddenly seemed like a waste of time and my being any part of it completely ill-suited. When it came time for me to read it felt perfunctory and disingenuous. The priest’s homily didn’t help matters, I just kept thinking, “I thought God is love?” “What does any of this have to do with loving God or one another?”
But grace comes when we least expect it (and perhaps when we most need it). My daughter and her family had joined us for mass yesterday, and just as I was feeling the most anger and disillusionment, my granddaughter Anna wrapped her arm around mine and leaned her sweet head on my chest. A simple loving gesture. Maybe she just wanted to let me know that I was loved. Maybe she just needed to feel loved. Whatever the reason, that moment was sublime. I felt my anger and frustration dissipate as her love flowed over me. I came to mass yesterday to read scripture and to hear the Gospel. Turns out it was spoken to me without any words.
The name Anna means “full of grace” and she is. And then I was, too.