In my last post, I cynically observed that we ought to expect ongoing attacks from ISIS soldiers. Nevertheless, last night, when the Oilman told me of the brutal murder of Father Jacques Hamel at the hands of an adolescent ISIS terrorist, I couldn’t breathe for a moment. This felt the closest to home yet.
At least a couple of times a week, Sweet Potato, Mint Julep and I attend a sparsely populated daily Mass in a Catholic Church. We went today, in fact. We go because we cannot be anything more nor less than what we are — creatures of the Creator — and because we long to be creatures who acknowledge Him, who love Him, who accept gratefully all that He so freely gives us.
In the Mass, He gives us His very self — body, blood, soul and divinity — and we receive Him hungrily, like the beggars we are. It’s a banquet to which all are invited, an exchange of gifts, and the simplest, sublimest celebration we could possibly attend — so why not go more than once a week?
Except — I don’t know. ISIS soldiers might … No, no. The possibility is too gut-wrenching to contemplate. That so peaceful a setting — one that anticipates heaven, actually — could become the scene of brutal terror? Surely not.
Yet, it has happened, and I can’t think why it might not happen again.
Forced to contemplate the risk, however statistically small (and, yes, I’ve read the oft-written quip that more people die from a slip in the bathtub than at the hands of terrorists), I almost canceled my plans to go to Mass this morning. It would have been paranoia to stay home, of course — ISIS terrorists cannot be everywhere, all the time, and we must live our lives — but, for a moment (and I’m ashamed to admit it), I was paranoid.
Then, before I went to bed, I read yesterday’s daily Mass readings. It seems unlikely that Adel Kermiche would be sophisticated enough to intentionally select the day the universal lectionary gave us this from the prophet Jeremiah (and anyway, why would he want to confirm the validity of that lectionary?):
“Let my eyes stream with tears/ day and night, without rest,/ Over the great destruction which overwhelms/ the virgin daughter of my people,/ over her incurable wound./ If I walk out into the field,/ look! those slain by the sword;/ If I enter the city,/ look! those consumed by hunger./ Even the prophet and the priest/ forage in a land they know not.
“Have you cast Judah off completely?/ Is Zion loathsome to you?/ Why have you struck us a blow/ that cannot be healed?/ We wait for peace, to no avail;/ for a time of healing, but terror comes instead./ We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness,/ the guilt of our fathers;/ that we have sinned against you./ For your name’s sake spurn us not,/ disgrace not the throne of your glory;/ remember your covenant with us, and break it not.”
No, Adel Kermiche did not orchestrate that reading, nor this selection from Psalm 112 featured in yesterday’s evening prayer in Magnificat:
“Happy the man who fears the Lord,/ … He has no fear of evil news;/ with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord./ With a steadfast heart he will not fear;/ he will see the downfall of his foes.”
So, I accepted them both as from the Holy Spirit — and then went to Mass this morning, after all. What else could I do?
What else can any of us do? Actually, I can think of a couple of things. I can think of a few more after that, too, really profound things like, “Do the laundry,” “Make dinner” and “Read to the kids.” Seriously, though. Go do the laundry and, if you’re like me and find it distasteful to iron, then iron a few shirts, too, and offer it up. Offer it all up.
Then, when death comes, whether today in an unexpected way or decades from now in a wholly prosaic manner, we’ll be ready.
All the East is moving, all right.