Let me tell you an Easter story. I know it’s a little late and that I should be setting my watch for Ordinary Time…but something happened on Easter that I’ve been thinking about for weeks.
Let me start by saying strange things happen when you ask for the grace to see people the way Jesus does. It can change your view of the world. It can change your view of the way you’ve been living your faith. And it can lead you to the unsettling conclusion that you have a lot of work to do, no matter how old you are or how set in your ways you are.
A preliminary explanation might be helpful: Since I’ve never done very well in crowds, I usually try to avoid events— and Masses—where everyone is crammed together, especially at Christmas and Easter. I can still remember when my friends tried to drag me out of my dormitory room and drive to Woodstock with them. I resisted, and it was the right decision for a lot of reasons, one of which was the mob of 500,000 young people. As soon as I saw that crowd, I would have started walking back to New York City alone.
Because of this inability to deal with crowds, I went to the 7:30 Mass on Easter, which I quickly learned wasn’t early enough to avoid the packed pews. But it’s a good thing that people are returning to church.
Predictably, there were a lot of people I’d never seen before, and I started grumbling, “I don’t want to be squished between strangers and singing, “Jesus Christ is risen today!” Even worse, many of them weren’t wearing masks, and I still had residual anxiety about COVID-19. (I forgot my mask so that compounded the problem.)
During the Liturgy of the Word, I began falling into my usual hypocritical state of mind because the Church was filled with many people who didn’t know when to sit or stand or kneel. With these self-righteous thoughts festering in my brain—I think Satan had a lot to do with it—I got up to receive Communion and found myself standing in line behind a teenager in sweatpants, a T-shirt and stylish psychedelic sneakers.
Just as I was about to take his inventory, I did a dangerous thing, which I don’t advise you to do unless you’re prepared for the consequences. I said a prayer to Jesus that always makes me feel ashamed. The prayer consists of eight highly volatile spiritual words: “Jesus, let me see them as you do.”
I only had to say it once. In no time at all, he answered me. (The answer came a lot faster than when I ask him, “Jesus, do you think I could win Power Ball?”)
My annoyance, my negativity, my criticism vanished. I realized Jesus wasn’t sad, and he wasn’t critical, angry or resentful that this young man was there. He was absolutely ecstatic. I felt sudden joy, walking behind this teenager in his athletic pants and colorful Nikes with his weird haircut.
I’m convinced Jesus was glad to see him at Mass, and even gladder that he received his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.
When I get self-righteous, I often forget that He wants to draw all people to Himself, even the ones who annoy us, who despise us and who anger us. It’s not my place to decide who is worthy because Jesus died for them all, and that makes them worthy.
For many years I complained about people who only come to Mass on Easter and Christmas, forgetting conveniently the years I went to Mass only on Easter and Christmas. Plus, there was that time at midnight Mass on Christmas that I should never have gone to because I had been partying too much that night and well…you get the idea.
To my thinking, Jesus was telling me, “Quit your belly-aching. Do you hear me complaining because this kid is at Easter Mass? I’m really happy!”
The prayer “Jesus, let me see them as you do” always works, usually to my embarrassment. Try it. But be prepared for the results.