Caryn Edwards

I have just started teaching at a Catholic high school where the girls attend chapel once a week. In this time, I have asked them, “Why are you here?” Most of them will tell me it’s because they are at a Catholic school or because they have to be there. I told them none of them are wrong for saying this, but I invited them to re-look at this question.

I told them about the moment that morning when I had locked my handbag and my car keys in the car. Inside my bag was my purse, my diary, my lesson plans, my lunch, my phone – basically everything I needed to navigate my day. So I quickly borrowed my husband’s car until I was able to call a locksmith – and I went to school empty-handed.

It struck me how dependent I am on these things. It made me think of our culture and how much it values stuff; how I value stuff – shopping and buying things I probably don’t need. I then remembered something Edith Stein said:

“The world doesn’t need what women have; it needs what women are.”

How sad that we spend so much of our lives focusing on acquiring more. More likes, more perfectly instagrammed photos, having a summer body, finally having a boyfriend…. The list of bettering what we have continues…

So I brought this message back to the reason of why we were sitting there in the chapel on a Wednesday afternoon. The invitation when we read Jesus’ interactions in the Gospel is to come as we are.

Jesus just wants some time with the tax collector, the prostitute, the fisherman. He just wants to know each individual and take them as they are. He does not say, “Go improve your CV first or lose a couple of centimetres around the waist.”

He takes each person in their sin, unattractiveness, ordinariness and He sees them with love and with wonder.

When do we actually experience being enough and having enough in our culture?

For me, walking into a chapel where there is a tabernacle is my chance. Christianity is not an idea or a list of rules. It centres on a person. Our faith is not a compilation of ideas and rules. No, it is based on the Person of Jesus who we call Lord. C.S. Lewis wrote:

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

I share his sentiment that Jesus is either not God’s Son or He is. There is no inbetween – we must make that choice.

So I asked the group of young women another question:

“What makes this building different to another?”

That person Jesus is as alive in the tabernacle as He was when He stuck His fingers in a man’s ears and enabled Him to hear again; when He visited a young girl on her sick bed and said to her, “Arise.”

I know He is there because Jesus told His Disciples, “I am the bread of life” and “This is my body.” He is there in the Eucharist because with God, all things are possible. And if I have Jesus’ life within me, the many things I find impossible become possible.

I am finding that the more time I spend before this Blessed Sacrament, the more peace and consolation I experience without needing to solve this crazy mystery that this is somehow Jesus’ flesh. It is as though the invisible rays of grace soak up my skin, my being, my life – with my flaws, strengths and complexities. What I receive is immeasurable and indescribable. I only know that Jesus wants me as I am, and He fills my trials with grace.

Yes, we can experience grace and God outside of the chapel too. In coffee shops, oceans, forests, kitchens – you name it.

But what is so special to me is that I am the closest to the actual physical Person of my faith when I sit before Him in the most unlikely form of thin wafer.

So, what happens when you walk into a church or chapel?

There is a Presence offering full acceptance, freedom and comfort.

Twenty four hours a day, Jesus is alive and well in that church or chapel. God, who once became a crying, cooing baby can also take the form of a wafer, the Eucharist. Life flows from the tabernacle. He promises to nourish me with His Blood, Soul and Divinity and I can just come as I am.

 


About the Author

Caryn EdwardsTCC profile pic

My inspirations are café interiors, Pope Francis and listening to people’s stories. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living with my husband in Cape Town where I teach Religious Education to high school girls. I ticked off speaking Spanish in Spain and getting married to my best amigo. Now I still hope to study theology, finally get a ticket to run the Two Oceans; and buy a second-hand sewing machine.