Several weeks ago, a striking event took place during Sunday morning mass. A husband and wife stood before the congregation and asked for prayers while one wrestled with addiction and the other with faithful support. As this couple struggled to tell their story and keep their composure, many of us were moved to tears. And then we applauded.
What can it mean, sitting with others at the end of mass, watching friends lay their lives bear, exposing the raw and painful reality of their journey together, to spontaneously weep and to applaud in the same moment?
There was a whole lot more going on here than just grief and courage. Perhaps the tears were bells acknowledging our arrival together “at the gates of heaven.” Or one might say, we shared the experience of falling together right into the depths of our own collective soul as a community of the faithful. Perhaps the applause was an acknowledgement of the total honesty, the sheer transparency, the deep humanity of two people who clearly owned their lives, just as they are.
But what on earth can this poetry mean?
There is a sort of continuum in worship, from high words to real life: from sermons to homilies to witnesses and ultimately, to the Living Word in Jesus Christ. We wept because we witnessed and heard the truth of the Living Word. We applauded because we experienced it saving our lives. We witnessed two people picking up their beds and walking. We might even say that we saw before our very eyes what it looks like to walk on water. Clearly there was chaos on the journey our two friends were taking together. And yet they stood before us, asking for our prayers for their continuing on the roiling, uncertain path before them.
My heart was full to overflowing during that event a few weeks ago and is still today, with gratitude for being offered a witness to the Living Word. I saw two others living the life they have on their hands. In its raw pain and conscious faith, it was like seeing these two living the resurrected life, lifted up from the deaths of many illusions.
I became clear in those moments, that when the Word in Jesus Christ is allowed to live in peoples’ lives, especially in moments of brokenness and pain, everyone’s hearts are touched by the same healing energy that touched the first Christians and that has touched people with open hearts ever since.
Having been touched and lifted up, I have my own simple witness. This Word is my Word. This community that remembers and celebrates this Word is my community. My heart is full, because these events, shared with these people, are saving my life.