The Great And Yet

By Carolyn Shields

I’m just gonna say it: I was incredibly irritated throughout Easter Mass this year. Most of it, anyway. I was frustrated that no one told the priest that none of the mics were on so all we heard for the majority of Mass was some muted reflections. I was irritated at all those prodigals who returned just for Easter, primarily the cousins sitting behind me who would ‘whisper’ every chance they got. I was annoyed that my family couldn’t sit together in our usual pews because of all the visitors. I was cranky that the Alleluias were about as slow and solemn as it got, that I weighed myself the night before and for the first time in about ten years, I couldn’t stop thinking about that number, and I was anxious over having to talk in front of my family of sixty in a few hours.

Throughout the Mass as I sat there stewing, I kept thinking, “And yet…and yet what, God? What am I supposed to get out of this fowl mood?”

All I could think about was it being a sacrifice of praise. I keep coming back to that phrase during reflections lately. It felt like a sacrifice to praise Him, but I still couldn’t shake my testiness. I was irritated with myself.

And then.

Once I received communion, I looked down and saw a sliver of the Host on the ground, and those in front of me didn’t see it and were walking over it. I knew immediately that I had received my “and yet” from Holy.

I knelt to pick it up, stopping the line, and I delicately pinched it between my pointer finger and thumb. I cradled the waning crescent—such an odd shape for the Host—as I handed it back to Father Collin. Why would the Host ever be anything but whole? It’s not like you bite it or crumble it in your hands, so why would a sliver of it be discarded on the ground and trampled under foot?

And yet…I found Him. On the ground. It was like He threw Himself there just to teach me a powerful lesson. Because thinking about it as I returned to my pew, I realized the Church is made up of many pieces: the daily Mass goers, the Sunday worshipers, and the prodigals. Together, we make up the whole Church, and the pieces that are lost are the most precious and are to be given the most care.

A few hours later I heard about the bombings in the Sri Lankan churches with a death toll of at least two hundred, with hundreds of others injured. I had the same reaction many did: “On Easter of all days…how terrible.” And thinking about it a bit more, it’s the one day of the year that all the prodigals return home, the day when the Churches are bursting at the seams…and even the terrorists know this. They wouldn’t bomb a daily Mass with the handful of faithful, and they disregarded the fifty-one other Sundays of the year.

Something keeps drawing all the missing pieces back at Easter. Something calls them home. Maybe it’s the most shallow of reasons, but even if they’re cast off and have gone so low as to be caught in the fibers of the carpet, they are the ones that make us whole. Without them, we wouldn’t be complete.

Next Sunday, when we go back to Church and notice all the empty pews, let us pray for our prodigal brothers and sisters, as well as the parts of our family that have been wounded these past few weeks. Our one, holy, apostolic Church is not whole until all the pieces are together, and Easter is the season to pray that they come home again and again.