Make a place for others

By | August 25, 2010

As I read the Gospel for this weekend, I thought to myself, “Obviously the Jewish people of that time did not have an equivalent of Emily Post.” If they had, people arriving at the banquet would only have had to look for their “place card” to know where to sit. Claiming space is something most of us understand. Many who rent an apartment have reserved parking spaces. When we attend theater or sporting events, the ticket usually carries with it a specific reserved seat. Place cards at weddings and formal dinners are expected. When I was a little girl, it was customary for churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to charge “pew rent.” Paying the fee gave you unconditional occupancy of that pew for the year. The closer the pew was to the front of church, the greater status of the pew and therefore, the higher the pew rent.

We have come to realize that the church is the people God has called. It is that “invisible” baptism garment we each wear that grants us equal seating at the eucharistic table. God desires that we make room for one another, but we are people used to “this is mine.”

A few years ago, a popular book on the reading circuit was “Who Moved My Cheese?” If you observe a community gather on Sunday morning it is evident that many of us Catholics could author a similar book, “Who Is Sitting in My Pew?” Some people arrive early to get their seat near the exit, near the bathroom, a window or close to the altar. Once settled in, it is difficult for them to relinquish any part of that area to another person. If someone approaches the pew dweller can become deeply engrossed in prayer pretending to not notice the person. At the very worst the approaching person is met with a hard glare that says “move on.” If the pew seeker is lucky the other person will get out of the pew allowing the seeker to take a spot further in. We can imagine the embarrassment the person in the Gospel felt when they were told they needed to move to a lower spot, and the hurt a person in our community must feel when people will not give them admittance. If “all are welcome,” then must our outward actions not reflect that? This Sunday’s Gospel calls us to explore an even deeper issue. Making a place for others in our pew is not as hard as making a place for them in our hearts. How will we treat people, especially those we have issues with, during the rest of the week? The eucharistic table of Jesus is ever expanding and there is room for all. Can the same be said for our hearts?


Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.

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