Mass in a Frozen Zone

The morning of Sunday, January 18 saw numerous accidents on the roadways. By the time I left my home at 8:30 several ambulances were responding to calls from people splayed on icy sidewalks in my neighborhood. That my six block walk to our nine o’clock morning Mass would constitute a treacherous journey was clear the moment I locked the door behind me and slid down the front steps, only saved from disaster by the handrail. Common sense cautioned me to go back indoors and pray the Mass in my living room; however, I was the assigned lector and duty overrode common sense. A five minute walk took twenty and by the time I reached my destination, I was trembling from the danger I’d avoided. As I reached the sacristy, the celebrant was on his way out. Interrupting my attempt to explain my lateness, he told me to go directly to the pulpit to signal the start of the liturgy.

The church, not surprisingly, was poorly attended. Surely those present deserved a warmer than usual welcome for braving the elements to worship together.

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The celebrant made no mention of that. Those who had risked life and limb to get there heard, instead, a homily drawn from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, condemning sexual perversions and immorality, encouraged by the culture and practiced in society, especially by the young.

In the silence of my heart I offered an alternate homily as I tried to imagine what Jesus might say to this congregation:

Welcome, dear sisters and brothers. I am so very glad to see each one you; however, I would not have faulted you for staying home on a frigid day made more dangerous by the ice.

Today my beloved Paul wants to encourage you, as he did the Corinthians of his day, to recognize the beauty and holiness of your bodies. These are like earthen vessels that will enable you to enjoy your human gifts and to carry goodness and compassion to a world in need of both. Recognize their sacredness and don’t abuse them – neither yours nor those of others. My friend, the great mystic, Teresa of Avila, understood this when she wrote:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ‘s compassion
is to look out to the world.

As I look out into your world this day, I want you to know how dear you are to me. Be careful getting home and when you arrive, celebrate your safety with a cup of hot chocolate or a comfortable cup of tea.

I don’t imagine many who were at Mass with me today will read these words, but I thank God for all of them and the faithful witness they provided.

Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., a radio commentator and writer based in New York City, is a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Institute of the Americas.

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