Sunday, March 21, 2010

Breaking and Entering

The sign of peace is not a formality, an exchange of pleasantries or an introduction. It is another opportunity in the liturgy for God to break in and affect us. Some days, as I listen to the familiar prayers and their cadences, it is hard not to get distracted. If I am lucky, it is a good distraction, the offering up of worries, relationships and the like to God in prayer.

More often than not, though, my mind wanders through itineraries, problem solving and the latest episode of "Grey's Anatomy.” I can finish the Our Father without even realizing I have said it.

On those days, the sign of peace is my salvation. By forcing me to look up, see the people in front of me and exchange a greeting with them, I am freed, if only momentarily, from my inner hamster wheel, freed sometimes from my grudges, too. Living in a small community, you inevitably have to exchange the sign of peace with someone, in your darkest moments, you'd rather see hit by a truck (or at least repeatedly by a toddler with a Wiffle Ball bat). Oh God, I pray on those days, please let him turn the other way, please don't make me face him. It can be very hard. But much to my surprise, I have found offering and receiving the sign of peace from people who bug me or have hurt me (or whom I have hurt) can be tremendously liberating. What has drawn tight or hard inside can unexpectedly be loosened.

In the face of wars and economic crises and family problems, we are all longing for peace, for reconciliation, for freedom of one kind or another. If we take the sign of peace a little more gently and slowly, or perhaps if we experiment with relocating it, we might be able to experience that grace a little more deeply.

Tomorrow: H1N1!

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