The Beauty of the Church Seen in the Fourth Annual White Mass
“God is in every person’s life,” Pope Francis reminds us in his interview in America magazine. Then he challenges us, “You can, you must try to seek God in every human life.”
At 11:30 a.m., this coming Sunday, at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, our local Church will celebrate one of the most joyful moments of the year with the White Mass, which takes its name from the white vestments we wear and the white garment of our baptism. In this liturgy, we honor the giftedness and belonging of all persons with special needs, recognizing the presence of God in them and highlighting that we are one in God’s family through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in baptism.
Each of us is born with unique abilities and inabilities in body and mind. In baptism, however, we are born anew, receiving new life as we pass from the old order into a whole new creation in which we are alive in the Spirit. Through bodily washing in water, a symbol both of death and new life, “baptism speaks to us of the incarnational structure of faith,” says Pope Francis. “Christ’s work penetrates the depths of our being and transforms us radically, making us adopted children of God and sharers in the divine nature” (Lumen Fidei, 42).
As persons, we are each a reflection of the glory of God. Not only are we created in the image and likeness of God but through baptism and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit we are made members of the new Body of Christ, his Church. No matter what our physical or mental limitations might be each of us receives equally the baptismal outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes us an adoptive child of God.
This will be the fourth year we have celebrated the White Mass and, each year, as participants looked around our cathedral church, we have comprehended many, many manifestations of God’s love and greatness in those around us. Here we experience the great harmony of the Church – unity in diversity – that comes from the Holy Spirit. We are reminded of both the beauty of the uniqueness of each one of us, our relationship to God in whose image and likeness we have been created and our call to be like God in our love for others. In my experience, perhaps one of the great gifts of people with special needs is the ease with which they so generously share their affection.
“The Church is like a great orchestra in which there is variety,” Pope Francis teaches us. “Everyone is different, different, each with their own qualities and that’s the beauty of the Church: everyone brings his or her own, what God gave them, to enrich others.”
To be certain, each of us is in need of others and each of us is enriched by others. We depend upon and are enriched by our spouses, children, siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers, customers, and clients. So it is that, in their own way, those of us who have various physical or mental challenges are enriched by the kindness of other people. However, in return all those around us who see in us the face of God are enriched by us.
As children of God, heirs to his Kingdom, the best way for any of us to serve others is by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to courageously witness to the power of His love in our lives. If we’re not able to use words, we can smile for Jesus. If we cannot use our legs, we can hold others’ hands. If we speak to the world with American Sign Language, we can tell our friends that they too are invited to join us at the table of the Lord.
In this way, with our own qualities, we enrich the lives of others. We manifest to them the presence of God in our lives and theirs.