Friday, January 29, 2016


When we got to the abbey church for mass this afternoon my brothers and I were greeted by loud banging noises coming from overhead. Just before the big snow hit a week ago, roofing contractors had replaced the slate roof of the church, and it sounded as if they were back, finishing up the job now that the snow was melting.  

The racket, which sounded like big hammers driving nails into the roof right over our heads, continued through the entrance song, the penitential rite, the oration, the first reading…

The first reading was the long, sordid story of king David’s double sin of adultery with Bathsheba and arranging the murder of her husband, Uriah. It always amazes me that the Jewish tradition not only held on to that unflattering episode from the life of its ideal king, but actually enshrined it as part of their national epic. The authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, decided that their story was a mixture of both good and evil, of heroism and cowardice, of gracefulness and deviltry, and so they included, especially in the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings, the whole spectrum of stories, some of them, like the one about David and Bathsheba, very unflattering to Israel’s kings.

The hammering went on through the first reading and then during the sung Responsorial Psalm. We stood for the alleluia verse, and still the hammering continued. I suddenly had this image of the Lord building the church, personally driving the nails to build up the Church. It was a perfect reminder that the Church is still under construction.

How could it be otherwise? This church of saints and sinners is of necessity very much unfinished, but the Lord keeps building it up more and more every day. I pictured the Hand of God smacking nails into our roof in the ongoing job of finishing the Church.

The hammering continued through the gospel reading about the mustard seed growing into a large shrub that hosted in its branches the birds of the air. It continued through the homily about our imperfectness and our need for God’s forgiveness.

At times it sounded as if God were trying to hurry and finish the whole Church this afternoon.

The racket accompanied the offertory procession and the Preface, and only stopped when we got to the Eucharistic Prayer. God must have paused in the construction work out of respect for the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary.

In fact, with the coming of darkness, all the construc-tion noises stopped for the evening.

When I left at the end of mass, the church was perfectly quiet. I hope that this doesn’t mean that God has stopped building us up into the Church we are supposed to be.

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