Monday, September 16, 2013

As if

When I was in junior high school, a common phrase was "as if."  We would snort derisively and sneer, "as if" to anyone with the temerity to rise above their station in jr. high.  Meaning as if that would ever happen.  Huh.  "So and so wants to be a cheerleader."  A chorus of girls would reply, "As if."  

But what if we lived our lives as if?  I am in Antigua, Guatemala studying Spanish.  On Suzy's recommendation, I went to church at a church called Hermano Pedro, Brother Peter.  It is attached to a large hospital and home for the severely disabled.  Suzy attended church there 23 years ago when she was learning Spanish.  She described it as looking like the kingdom of God because they wheel the disabled in a park them right in the front.  In order to see the cross or receive the Eucharist, you must walk through "the least of mine" first.  I couldn't wait to worship this way.  I arrived just moments before 11AM, found a seat in the last pew.  I paused a moment to contemplate the long row of wheelchairs in the aisle.  Suzy was right.  Just as I knelt to pray, everyone stood up, said Amen and left!   Turns out the service didn't start at 11, it ended at 11.   I was so disappointed but vowed to return at 5:30 for the evening mass (which I confirmed with a nun.)

At 5:30 I returned.  The row of wheelchairs was gone but the small church was filled anyway.  Again, I sat a plastic chair behind the last pew.  The service was lovely, the church beautiful, and receiving the host a comfort.  As the service ended, the priest blessed us and sent us out into the world.  The tiny choir in the loft was finishing the final hymn so I decided to walk towards the front and see the rest of the nave.  As I got very close, I could hear another voice singing with the choir.  There in the sanctuary, with the rest of the altar party was a young woman in a wheel chair.  She, perhaps, has very severe cerebral palsy or some other infirmity that has left her extremely disfigured with little control over her body.  She was beaming with joy, singing the hymn with great gusto!  

She was singing as if.  As if it didn't matter what she looks like.  As if her voice would join the chorus and rise to heaven.  As if she could do whatever she was called to do.  As if the kingdom of God was right there.  As if that would ever happen.  It did.  Thanks be to God.

Lord, help me to live my life as if.