I am friends with a woman who, for years, attended a nice parish where she was involved in multiple Bible studies. Despite the fact that she showed up week after week no one knew her name, for no one asked her name. Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and Scripture sustained her but she was lonely; she had no friends and no community.
Another friend told me how in reading the Bible and taking ownership of her faith she has passionately fallen in love with Jesus Christ. It has changed her life and ignited her heart. But as she searched for peers in her parish, for the kind of friends who were also joyfully in love with Christ, she found no one. At times she was ignored and at other times she was even scandalized.
These stories break my heart and shame me. I know I am not solely to blame for these women’s feelings but I also know that I bear some of the responsibility and when I am judged I will be accountable for that. I cannot help but compare it to the story from today’s Gospel. If my whole parish is healed then I don’t want to be part of the group that is so busy that I don’t notice what God has done for me. I want to be part of the group who is so profoundly thankful that the trajectory of my life is changed by how I live out that joy and gratitude. I want my life to be a response of praise and love to God for what He has done for me. And I want it to be so powerful that I cannot help but reach out to others.
I never want a person in my parish to say, “No one ever seemed to care if I was there.” I want them to know that I care and I need to act in a way that conveys that fact. What about saying to someone, “We always sit in front of you! What’s your name?” and then remember that name and use it the next time I see them? What about offering, “I saw there’s an event next weekend. We’re thinking of attending, what about you?” Even for the shy and introverted, you could say these things, sister!
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I could never do that! I would be a fool!” But you know what, you wouldn’t. You would love it if someone did that to you, and it would brighten your day. I know it would brighten mine! We need to live our lives as a joyful response to what Christ has done for us and we can start by treating people the way we want to be treated.
Open conversation with someone at church this week. You’d be surprised at how she might react!
Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker, and homemaker. She, her husband, and six children live in central Illinois, and her son’s alleged miraculous healing through the intercession of Venerable Fulton Sheen was submitted to the Vatican for Sheen’s beatification. Bonnie pretends she has a green thumb, bakes a fantastic chocolate chip cookie, loves naps and chai tea, and blogs. You can find out more about her here.