Yesterday, we were running late for Mass, which doesn't actually happen often, though that's not really due to any particular virtue on my part. It's just that I sort of have Sunday morning down to a science. I can tell you exactly how long it takes a teenage girl to wash her hair, the number of minutes required for a nine-year-old to read the comics, the way a husband can get ready so quickly that his grooming time needn't even be factored in.
But, occasionally, even though everyone is awake on schedule and the shower routine is cycling nicely, something happens to upset the science.
Yesterday we all seemed to be teetering on a precipice. Ramona was in a bad mood. Maybe I would have been, too, if I were nine years old, growing at an alarming rate, shooting out of all my clothes, especially my favorite dresses. My mood followed suit and between our battling sensibilities, it took awhile to figure out something Ramona could wear to Mass. Soon we were out the door, but later than usual, and on the way to Mass we got held up at a train crossing.
Minutes ticked by. Two. Three. Five.
"This," I announced to my daughters, "is why you never judge anyone for walking into Mass late. You never know why someone is late, and in the end, it's none of our business."
We were indeed late. We walked into the church during the first hymn, fumbled around to find a seat, and that's the way our day started.
Short fuses continued into the afternoon. Shots were fired at the slightest provocation. Moods shifted from So-So to Meh to GETAWAYFROMMENOW. Was it the fact that within the last week, at various times, we'd all gotten to confession? Why is a clean soul so susceptible to attack? One would think or hope it might be the opposite, that a soul after cleansing is that much stronger, full of grace. And yet, in my experience, the days just after a confession feel like a minefield.
Two things, though, yesterday that I loved about our pastor:
One was that his homily focused on who we are. Not what we do, how we make our living, or the sum of our sins. In the end, we are each, he stressed, beloved sons and daughters of God. That is our identity. And that is a stupendously simple and spot on reminder in this season of Advent. Everything should flow from that.
Second, his note in the bulletin was lovely, too. He said that he finds it both amusing and a relief to think about how much we all share the same struggles. (Yes and yes.) He used the example of envying how well-behaved someone else's children are at Mass, or how other people seem to have everything figured out and are perpetually serene. I've been on both sides of this -- feeling like the only horrid mother who just had a fight with her daughter over Mass clothing (a fight about clothes, for heaven's sake!? Before I head off to receive the Lord's Body?) and being on the other end, having someone think I have it All-Together-All-The-Time (which I most certainly, clearly-most-sincerely do not.)
We are not, as Father reminded us, alone.
In my own words, I'm not special enough to be the only one with my problems.
And so, as I move through this final week of Advent, I am contemplating the ways in which we, beloved sons and daughters of God all, will keep making our mistakes, but we can -- we must -- keep rising, striving, moving upward together.
"Be kind -- everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."