I was looking through the bulletin and read our welcoming tip, “Let’s put on a happy face and welcome all who pass through our doors.” I smiled as I read that because it reminded me of a story that happened to me about eight years ago. I was buying some food in a supermarket in Moorestown. As I strolled up and down the aisles looking for my dinner, it struck me that all of the people there were walking around with their heads down – searching for their food or drink items, but that was it. There was no acknowledgement of the person walking past them. None of us were looking at one another or even acknowledging one another’s presence.
I’m not saying that there was anything wrong with what we were all doing. But I don’t think that it was the best thing.
The Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper once wrote, in his essay “Love,” “[W]hat we need over and above sheer existence is: to be loved by another person.” In other words there is a difference between two or three people just being there occupying the same space, and two or three people being there and loving one another, acknowledging and celebrating one another’s presence.
Wherever we are, whether in our homes, or at work, or even in the supermarket, love challenges us in some way to communicate to the person in front of me: It is good that you are here! “It is good that you exist! (Pieper)” Even the stranger whom we don’t know is still created by God, whom we do know, and is loved by Him, even infinitely so.
One of my philosophy professors at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Dr. Atherton Lowry, once shared the story of how he was walking around in a mall and it suddenly struck him that each and every person walking by him, every single one of them, was infinitely loved by God.
Wow. Does every person who walks through the front doors of St. Gregory’s Church sense this in some way? Do they feel that their life has meaning and value? Do they have a greater understanding of that after they spend some time in our church?
We have been given a great gift to be a part of this parish where community is an important value. It is so obvious to me even after just three or four weeks! People want to talk to one another after Mass, want to catch up on what is going on in the life of their neighbor. You don’t see that everywhere, unfortunately. It is a gift.
Friends, the welcoming gesture, the smile, is not for us ultimately; it is to try in some small way to bring the person in front of me to a greater knowledge of Jesus’ love. To allow someone to hear from us: It is good that you are here! “It is good that you exist!”