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What should I bring?

My family had a big get-together yesterday for a great niece's birthday.  Just an ordinary backyard blow-out with hot dogs, little kids in bathing suits, and lots of lemonade and beer.  I contacted my niece-in-law last week and asked,  "What can I bring?"

"What can I bring?" is the question women have been asking each other forever.  Mary probably figured out some way to ask Elizabeth that before the Blessed Mother went to visit her cousin.  "What can I bring?" is not just a question about food, it's a question about helping, community, sharing gifts and pitching in.  "What can I bring?" means "I care" and "I want to be a part of this in a more intimate way than just showing up.  I want to share, not just partake."

By far, the biggest complaint young people have about Mass is "It's boring".  Adults say the same thing;  we just say, "I don't get anything out of it" since "It's boring" sounds even more juvenile and whiny when it comes out the mouth of a thirty-something.  And I'm not saying I've never been bored at Mass, but I readily recognize that when this has happened, it's been my fault, and not a problem with the liturgy.

Just as "What can I bring?" means more than just "What kind of food do you still need?", "It's boring" means more than "I want to be entertained." (Although it means that too.)  "It's boring" means "I'm just showing up.  I don't want to share or partake.  I'm just gonna sit here and wait for something marvelous to happen."  And it doesn't work that way.

One of the things we need to do to prepare for Mass (and yes, Virginia, you do need to prepare for Mass), is to ask,  "What can I bring?"  Tell God that you want to share and partake, not just be a fleshy blob of humanity taking up space at the party.  The Mass is a party - the Great Wedding Feast, the Best Supper, the Seder of the Savior, the Biggest and Best Family Get-together.  And just as we would ask Aunt Mabel "What can I bring?"  we need to ask ourselves (and God!) "What can I bring to this feast that will make it more meaningful, more filling and fulfilling?  I don't want to just show up.  I want to participate."  God wants you to be a welcomed guest, but not the kind of guest who gets waited on hand-and-foot, but rather the kind of guest who rolls up his or her sleeves, helps to serve the food, dances to the music, and stays afterwards to clean up.  You know, like a family party.  And just like a party isn't a party without Aunt Mabel's pickled herring or Cousin Anita's hummus and pita chips, the Mass isn't complete without YOU.

This week, as you're looking towards the weekend, and making plans, take a few minutes and ask God.  "What can I bring?"

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.