Sunday, May 22, 2016

Life Outside the Trinity (Ode to Eleanor Rigby)

“…the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Last week during the homily of my morning Mass, I lamented about the parents and godparents that were present that morning to take their baptismal class and join us for Mass and pleaded for them to return to church today.  (This didn’t make it into the written version of last week’s homily, but it happened.)  I thought about those parents and godparents all week, particularly at the beginning of the week.  They go through the motions of having their child baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity that we celebrate today, and yet they do not know how profound this step they are taking is. Every month I see them walk into church as if they had never set foot in a church before and my heart breaks for them but especially for their children who probably will not experience the joy of regular Sunday Mass. On Tuesday while I was doing some reading, I had a Beatles album playing in the background when all of the sudden I stopped when I heard: “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”  They are the opening words to “Eleanor Rigby.”  I’ve heard this song hundred of times with its religious imagery, but this week it spoke to me on a deeper level: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?  All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”  I heard McCartney singing about the lonely people and all I could think of were these new parents who are starting out their children’s lives without the much-needed compass that is Jesus Christ.  I stared out at them last Sunday and saw loneliness, bewilderment, apathy, boredom.  If only they knew that they are called to live in a life of communion just like the interior life of the Holy Trinity.  The Trinity is community and communion.  God does not want us to be lonely: “it is not good for man to be alone.”  Yet we subject ourselves to this loneliness fearful of what change communion might bring if we are forced to interact with the brothers and sisters that God has placed around us.

“Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in a church where a wedding has been…” This song is about loneliness.  I read up on its origins last week.  It was written by Sir Paul with some great input from John and George, but it reflects in a way McCartney’s own upbringing as a Catholic.  Shame that he saw religion as such a lonely venture.  It’s far from it.  The protagonist along with the parish priest live unspeakable lonely lives: “Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.  No one comes near. Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there What does he care?”  And at the very end of this brief song, the lives of these two lonely souls intersect in a tragic verse: “Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came. Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave No one was saved.”  Well that does tend to happen when we live outside of communion and community.  There are so many who wander into church by themselves out of routine, habit or just plain guilt, not knowing what they are looking for, yet what their hearts truly desire lies in the heart of God himself: Father, Son and Spirit.  We worship a God who is constantly communicating his love for us.  “Everything that the Father has is mine;” Jesus tells us in the gospel today,  “for this reason I have told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:15).”  The way the Trinity works, the way the Father shows his love for us is by giving what is rightfully his Son’s and giving it to us through the Holy Spirit therefore drawing us into a deeper relationship with Him.  

But this also implies reaching out to see who else we are in communion with.  All of us share a divine bond when we receive the Body of Christ every Sunday, yet some barely look up to acknowledge the brother or sister sitting next to us or near us who take communion with us.  Ah look at all the lonely people…  Last Sunday after I went on the tangent with the baptism parents, a very kind lady approached me after to Mass to thank me for those words and to tell me that this wasn’t the only problem I had in my parish.  She had just gone to kneel before the image of Our Lady of Fatima that is present on our sanctuary during the month of May, and this lady knelt down in the first pew in front of the image of our Blessed Mother to pray two decades of the rosary.  She was in prayer when a gentleman that was arriving for the next Mass interrupted her to saw that she couldn’t be there because that was his seat, his pew. Ah look at all the lonely people…  It took every ounce of grace that comes from on high for me not to go over to that poor soul and kick him out of the church for being everything a Catholic should not be.   Thankfully, this kind lady who was radiating holiness, probably because of the two decades she prayed to Mary, prevented me from confronting the gentleman and to quote another Beatles song, she just told me to “let it be.”  Ah look at all the lonely people…  Attitudes likes this are what prevent communion and keep turning our churches, well into churches like the one where poor Father McKenzie and Eleanor Rigby serve.  I look upon the lost souls who wander in and out of our church without allowing themselves to be truly engaged with their brothers and sister and drawn into true communion with a Trinitarian God who has poured out his love for them, and I weep.  Unlike Father McKenzie, I truly care.  

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?   All the lonely people, where do they all belong?  The song ends abruptly on those two questions.  We know the answer to both.  Our people come from places where faith is not a priority, but it is our responsibility to share it with them.  And where do they belong?  Well, right here.  Sitting around this table sharing in the communion that comes from a God who is One and Three.  This morning Pope Francis said in his Angelus address: “The feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to engage in the daily events to be the leaven of communion, of consolation and of mercy.”  Communion, consolation, mercy:  all come from God and all are solid cures for loneliness.  Loneliness is born from a life lived outside of the Holy Trinity.  So I continue to gaze out the window, out beyond this pulpit and altar, and out beyond my church doors staring at strangers who aren’t supposed to be strangers walk in and out of this church and wondering and praying for them as those chilling words play in the back of my head like a haunting lament: All the lonely people, where do they all come from?   All the lonely people, where do they all belong?