During Holy Week, on the day I usually take a “day off”, I went out to the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Boston. The Chrism Mass is the Mass where all the priests from the Archdiocese come together, and the chrism oils that priests use in the sacraments are blessed for the year. The priests also renew the vows they made in accepting the call to be a member of Lord’s priesthood.
Now, you would have thought with my day off, I could make it in plenty of time. Of course not. I ended up arriving about 10 minutes early, but still way past the time for getting any reasonable parking. With a sigh, I made a pass down the street by the cathedral, past the full parking lots, the filled spaces along the street. Then, all of a sudden, there was a spot. Out of nowhere. Great. I pulled in, got out and looked at the meter.
Nothing. Four flashing zeroes. The meter was hungry – and I had no quarters. Now, meter maids in Boston take very good care of hungry meters, and when parkers neglect their little meters, the maids feed them with big pricy tickets. They are quick and thorough – they are vigilant, devoted maids for their meters.
I knew that it was impossible to not get a big ticket.
So, I could have gone to go get change from somewhere, and I would miss a good part of the Mass. I could try to find another parking spot that didn’t have a meter (good luck). So, inside, I made a decision. It wasn’t with words, but if it were, it would sound like this: “Lord, this is my fault. I could have been here earlier, I have no excuse. But I want to be with You and Your church at this Mass. I will take the big ticket. I will pay the price to be with You.”
When I began to walk away, down the street came a priest friend. We greeted each other and chatted briefly. I went to the street corner to cross, and there were all of my friends from the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. We shared some conversation as we crossed the street and entered the Cathedral. In the entry was a friend from the Franciscan community that I had spent some time with. I visited the Lord in the tabernacle in the side chapel, and when I came out to look for a seat, I saw a brother friend from the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. He invited me into his pew, and when I was seated, I noticed across the aisle 7 or so pews filled with schoolchildren from my home parish.
Everyone prayed together during the Mass, and after the Mass, my father’s cousin stopped by me to say hello. I went to the Cardinal and thanked him for his words in his homily. Then, I rejoined the Franciscans to meet up with one of the brothers. When we walked outside, I saw a priest who I help at nursing homes in a neighboring parish, and we talked. A seminarian friend who I had been with on a World Youth Day trip stopped to talk. I exchanged phone numbers with another seminarian friend, to catch up some time soon. A priest friend from the Oblates came by out of the blue, and got a picture of us. One of my best friends, the priest who said my mother’s funeral Mass, was there with his parents, who are wonderful friends of my family and have helped us so much. I got to catch up with another newly ordained priest friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and, by phone, I caught up with a seminarian from Georgia who was a brother postulant with me with the Franciscans.
I offered to give one of the priests a ride, and as we walked to the car, I thought about how happy I was. “The Church is my home. The Church is my family.”
When we finally reached the car, we walked around to look at the front windshield.
Two and half hours at a starving meter in the South End of Boston, and no ticket.
I didn’t have to pay the price after all.
How was it that I didn’t have to pay the price, but instead got to be with all these good people, all these friends on the same day, at the same time? How was it that I got to be with my true family, my real home that day, and I didn’t have to pay what I really owed?
One little act of the heart. “I will pay the price to be with You.” That one act, and He gave me His family, His home. For free.
We can be afraid to admit our guilt, to confess we’ve done wrong. We are afraid to pay that price, because we know it’s painful, if not impossible, to pay. But the repentant thief on the cross with Jesus admitted his own guilt, he didn’t try to get out of it. Instead, he confessed, he accepted his responsibility and all the consequences: But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Lk 23:40-41) He asked only to be with the Lord: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Lk 23:42)
And the Lord paid his price and gave him His home: And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43)
Whatever the price is that we owe, all the Lord wants is our humble confession and willingness to pay it in order to be with Him. He just wants to hear the words:
“I will pay the price to be with You.”
It’s then that we receive His Kingdom. And He pays the price.