Come Home. We Missed You!

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Luke 5:31-32

“Why should we linger and heed not his mercies?”
Come Home, Carrie Underwood

Dioceses across the country, including my home diocese, Kansas City-St. Joseph, have launched multimedia campaigns encouraging people who have stayed home and livestreamed mass to return and worship in person. Our campaign has the theme, “Come Home To Communion” with billboards and social media spreading the message: If at all possible, join us in person in worship. We’ve missed being together, and the darkness of the pandemic is giving way to the light of joy in praising God, together.

Two instances of being witness to self-imposed separation from community, and my attempt to intervene, come to mind.

The first, in Spring, 1973, was when I was a Dominican novice. I went home to prepare to move to our summer camp, and I made a side trip to the Catholic Student Center at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The Director, a longtime friend, invited me to speak to students about the religious life. Who better than a fellow Saluki to do that? I remember standing in the vestibule, waiting for mass to begin, when I saw a young man in great personal difficulty, pacing back and forth in the hallway. He wanted to come in, but felt her could not. I invited him to sit with me in back, and he moved to the door, hesitated with great pain in his face, and finally walked out. I started to head outside, but it was time for Mass to start. I was unable to reach a person in a turmoil of faith — at age 21.

The second instance occurred about 15 years ago at our church. Some choir members had difficulties with changes being implemented in worship music, and left as a group. The music and worship survived, though that iteration of the choir did not. A few years later, I was standing in the vestibule, waiting to process in as lector at an evening Mass. I spotted one of the former choir members standing, literally, outside the church entrance, peeking in. I invited them to come and join us, but with a sad expression, they refused, and walked away.

These were two very different encounters, both ending with someone’s decision to not say “yes” to acceptance and forgiveness.

In 2021, we have the new decisions, perhaps tied  to fear of COVID,or with caution and  comfort, allowing a livestream to replace the warmth, love, and joy of communal worship.

I pray that those who have felt apart, with whatever issues they must work through, will heed the Lord’s call to return, with all their heart.

We wait for you, with anticipation.

Michael Throop