Another guest post from Mr. 52godpickup.
Noon Sunday Mass, Holy Name Church, Birmingham, Michigan.
When I’m backed into a corner and forced to say that I live in Birmingham, I sometimes add, in a weak joke, “in the poor part of Birmingham.” In my working-class Irish family we were taught by example to never let them think you’re putting on airs and never, ever let them guess what’s in your bank book.
Holy Name is most definitely in the part of Birmingham where the third generation of immigrants are lawyers and doctors and auto company executives, and where I hope at least one of my children will someday own a house with a little apartment above the garage where mom and dad can spend their old age gardening and volunteering.
My wife, knowing and probably despairing of my working-class sentimentality, had first steered me to the other Catholic churches nearby, but I was attracted to Holy Name’s Mass at the civilized hour of high noon. I ventured, and was glad of it.
To start with, the sanctuary is beautiful and the building bursts with meeting rooms, offices and conference rooms. I could easily picture a national brokerage or a marketing team taking over the place for the week.
In the lobby I saw more signs of success — posters and placards recognizing this year’s confirmation class of 124 eighth-graders. Yes, Holy Name has a school, but even so, 124 eighth-graders are practically a regiment of soldiers for Christ.
In the pews, I counted at least 200 worshipers, including a smattering of elderly gentlemen, white-haired but bursting with vitality, as if they had breakfasted on oatmeal and cantaloupe and then dashed off a few sets of tennis before going to fulfill their Sunday obligation.
More signs of vitality in the missal, which had three pages of local business advertising — and not just plumbers and roofers but also Realtors, financial advisors and orthodontists.
Then the Mass unrolled with its timeless comfort of ritual, familiarity and mystery. Even the new responses seem familiar by now. I had lapsed as a Catholic years ago, when I was a new father and I was frustrated by the Church’s near-criminal fumbling of the sex-abuse cases. (I remember a respected great-uncle snarling, “The bishops couldn’t manage a corner grocery.”) I was reminded today that home is always home. The Catholic Church will always take me back, should I choose to return.
And then the Rev. Msgr. John Zenz delivered a wonderful homily on Luke 24, in which the Risen Lord appears to His disciples and invites them to inspect the wounds in His hands and feet to see that He was indeed real. And then He said He was hungry and asked for a piece of fish to eat.
“Matter Matters” was Zenz’s title and his point: The risen Christ was not an apparition or an abstraction. Easter is not a metaphor, a celebration of new life blooming in spring, like crocuses bringing forth new flowers. Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead as a physical body. And eating fish.
So we should remember that our outward glowing signs are not the whole story. We too are flesh and blood, scars and blemishes, wounded in all kinds of physical and psychological ways.
And it is our scars that are our bridge to Christ. He suffered; we will suffer. He rose; we will be resurrected.
Wonderful to hear that message insisted upon.