My husband and I went to Vigil Mass yesterday, and we were going to be on time. We always seem to slide into the pew a matter of seconds before the entrance hymn beings. This time was going to be different: we would arrive a full ten minutes early for peaceful, prayerful reflection to make sure we were properly disposed for the Mass.
And we almost made it. We had exited the highway and were almost in sight of the church when we heard the ominous ding!ding!ding! of the railroad gates. The speed limit on this particular track is evidently something like two miles per hour, so when you hear that noise you can pretty much forget about being wherever you were going on time.
But then we realized we were in luck! The train was actually on the tracks across the street, and we just needed to turn right. We were in a right turn only lane so this should be no problem.
It was to our great frustration that we realized that the car in front was intending to go straight (illegally) and therefore had to wait for the train to pass, even though he was in the right turn only lane.
I was just about to start having some really sinful thoughts when something distracted me.
HOOOOONK! HONK! HONK-HONK-HONK! HOOOOOOOOOOOONK!
The guy in the silver BMW M3 behind him was just laying on the horn. It was almost constant. I’m surprised he didn’t wear his horn out. And he didn’t stop. As the long train creeped by (it took at least a full five minutes, probably more), and the cars piled up behind us to wait to turn right, the honking continued. It got to the point that a couple people stepped out of there cars to see what was going on. The lady driving the car next to us looked over at us with an uncomfortable shrug.
Somewhere into the fourth straight minute of honking my husband and I joked, “Maybe he’s really in a hurry to get to Mass!” and had a good laugh at our sparkling wit.
Finally, a couple minutes later, the train passed and the gates lifted. The car in front went on its way, and the BMW whisked quickly to the right…towards our church.
“Surely not…” we said.
Then another right. The building was now in sight. And, sure enough, the BMW hooked a left and squealed into the church parking lot. Being the nosy, gossipy people we are, my husband and I were determined to follow the car to see who the driver was and almost did some rude honking of our own when people got in our way. (“Get out of the way, fool! We’re trying to see who the guy was who was honking on his way to Mass so that we can feel smugly superior to him! MOVE!”)
He parked his car in the last row out, with a grass curb on one side and plenty of empty parking spaces on the other, undoubtedly to ensure that nobody come within 20 feet of the flawless paint job. Despite his hurry he did take the time to re-park it a few times to make sure it was as close to the grass as possible. (It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we resisted parking our car right next his, way over on his side of the lane).
Throughout the entire Mass I had to refrain from erupting into giggles at the whole thing. I kept thinking of the various things he might have been saying as he wore out the horn in his car: “Get out of my way, idiot, I’m trying to get to church!”, or “If you don’t move so I can go receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ I’m going to kick your a–!”
I get to have a great chuckle at this fellow parishioner’s expense only because I am so much like him. Though I can honestly say I would never do what he did, it’s not because I’m so much holier — it’s only because I’m a non-confrontational wussy. But believe me, if the din of the constant honking had distracted me, I would not exactly have remembered to see Christ in the person who was in the right turn only lane and not turning right.
The whole thing was a good reminder for me. Actually hearing the disconcerting ugliness of the blaring horn was so unpleasant…yet not all that different from what goes on in my head when I’m on my way to church. In our quest to be early (or at least on time) for Mass lately, I often find myself snapping at the kids or my husband, thinking nasty thoughts about other slowpoke drivers who only go ten miles over the speed limit, and blaming lights and stop signs and traffic when I don’t arrive exactly when I wanted to. I often walk into the house of God grousing, rushing, and generally feeling sorry for myself. And even if I refrain from communicating with my car’s horn, how many times have I thought something like, “Get out of my way, idiot! I’m trying to get to Mass!” — my way may not be as noisy, but it’s horribly unpleasant nonetheless.
As I thought about how rude and un-Christian my fellow parishioner in the BMW was, I realized that I’m no better. Sometimes we all let our desire to control everything, to have things play out exactly according to our plans, allow us to completely forget what it’s all about.
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