Sometimes at church they used to say “The mass is ended go in peace” to which the correct answer was “Thanks be to God”. I remember as a child fervently meaning “thank God that boring part of my week is over and looking over to my brother and catching him just as fervently also thanking God and there was a moment of eye contact where we both gleefully knew each other was thinking the same thing.
Why, I wondered, are they so honest that we are all grateful it is over, and if they all know this is a common experience why don’t they make it shorter?
I will try to make this blog post short so my readers don’t relate to that too closely.
Now of course the marriage survey (also variously known as “the plebby-shite” or “the huge waste of tax-payer money”) is over. 61.6 % people out of the 79.5% who even participated, ticked “yes”, 38.4% ticked “no” that gay and lesbian people, couples, families should not have the same legal recognition and rights as they enjoy. 20.5% of people were either apathetic, disorganised or in some way incapable of answering (this is a very low percentage actually considering it was a voluntary survey).
What does it all mean? Well hopefully it means all the campaigning is over “thanks be to God” and people like me won’t need to keep feeling like we are advocating for our right to exist. Hopefully the outright lies equating us to pedophiles and malfunctioning seat-belts will be forced to stop.
I feel there is a connection here between the last part of the mass, that I have not deconstructed as yes and the marriage survey results which are both positive (a clear-cut “yes”) and negative “almost 40% of respondents hate or fear us more than they love equality and justice). I can’t pretend my “group” is the most hated in society. Noone has locked me on Manus island or starved, beat or stoned me. Noone has spat on me and the words that have hurt me have rarely been said to my face. There are other groups that need support even more than I do at this time, at any time. At all times of history someone is hurting from exclusion, injustice or hatred.
So the work of the “Mass”, the work of bringing together in reconciliation, reflexivity, shared stories, preparing and sharing food, company and gratefulness is always unfinished business. Sacramental moments finish and there is something we are grateful to take with us into daily life. Surveys come back in an anticlimactic set of numbers and we make sacrament by holding in our thoughts and words and sometimes arms (I need a hug) all the people who are feeling something, or horridly nothing.
Cause I feel sort of a cross between numb and crying.
But sacrament is not a survey, we look beyond numbers to souls that need comforting, including, loving and even calling to repentance (yes the “no” voters have spiritual needs too, just not necessarily the ones they claim).
The survey is ended, relief and thanks for small mercies.
The struggle continues.
The Eucharist must imbue our days somehow. This is unfinished business, we will gather together and talk together and pray together again (and again)
Thanks be to God.