Soon I will enter the sacristy and vest for the first Vigil Mass for the Nativity of the Lord. In addition to the usual intention, our parishioners, I offer the Mass for my family, friends, and all my readership.
I also remember a woman who came to the door earlier today, asking to pray over in the church. She acknowledged social anxiety and a run-in she had with an unnamed parishioner that has since discouraged her from attending Mass, here or anywhere. With pastoral panache [verbal irony], I encouraged her, "You wouldn't let one instance of food poisoning keep you from eating, would you?" She was most welcome to come over at 2:30 when the church would be opened up. She thanked me and left.
I unlocked the church before 2:30, earnestly hoping to see her, to apologize for the short treatment and to pray with her. She didn't show.
A friend soon called me, and I told him about the situation. He was merciful enough to posit a merciful God who would not hold this against me. Like anything else, my friend said, this could be a learning experience for the next person who will come by at an inopportune time. He also recognized the difficulties of "boundaries": would you create a precedent for the priest being available anytime, at anyone's call?
Well, yes, I ought to have done just that. For just a minute. Nothing would have suffered. Not my homily (which was already prepared), nothing else.
Pray with me for this woman, that the Lord's mercy may enter her heart to forgive whoever is troubling her, even if it's this priest.
Yes, you and I can learn from the times we fail to welcome Christ in our midst. May it be so!