If you’re in Madrid, you know there are going to be Masses happening Sunday morning, probably every few meters.
It was a little challenging though, trying to get the timing right.
In the first church we found, they were intoning the Agnus Dei (in Spanish). The next couple were just wrapping up one Mass, the next to come an hour later, the fourth we found would be thirty minutes later, and that would get us up to the neighborhood of our apartment later than I’d told the owner.
So we just retrieved our luggage from the Atocha left luggage room, got on the Metro, and headed to that neighborhood, and almost as soon as we ascended from the station, we heard bells – it was noon – so we followed the sound, and Mass was just beginning at the church/chapel that turned out to be about a block from our apartment.
It is some kind of convent – I’ll figure it out tomorrow – with some sisters (white habit with black veils, modified) out in the congregation, a few more behind the grill off the sanctuary. Is it one of the convents that sells convent sweets? To be figures out later…
I have willingly come to pay you a Visit, and the most important moment of our meeting is Holy Mass, where the gift of God’s love is renewed: a love that comforts us and gives us peace, especially in life’s difficult moments.
In the Eucharistic celebration it is Christ himself who becomes present among us; indeed, even more: he comes to enlighten us with his teaching – in the Liturgy of the Word – and to nourish us with his Body and his Blood – in the Eucharistic Liturgy and in Communion.
Thus, he comes to teach us to love, to make us capable of loving and thereby capable of living.
But perhaps you will say, how difficult it is to love seriously and to live well! What is the secret of love, the secret of life? Let us return to the Gospel [of the Prodigal Son].
In this Gospel three persons appear: the father and two sons. But these people represent two rather different life projects. Both sons lived peacefully, they were fairly well-off farmers so they had enough to live on, selling their produce profitably, and life seemed good.
Yet little by little the younger son came to find this life boring and unsatisfying: “All of life can’t be like this”, he thought: rising every day, say at six o’clock, then according to Israel’s traditions, there must have been a prayer, a reading from the Holy Bible, then they went to work and at the end of the day another prayer.
Thus, day after day he thought: “But no, life is something more. I must find another life where I am truly free, where I can do what I like; a life free from this discipline, from these norms of God’s commandments, from my father’s orders; I would like to be on my own and have life with all its beauties totally for myself. Now, instead, it is nothing but work…”.
And so he decided to claim the whole of his share of his inheritance and leave. His father was very respectful and generous and respected the son’s freedom: it was he who had to find his own life project. And he departed, as the Gospel says, to a far-away country. It was probably geographically distant because he wanted a change, but also inwardly distant because he wanted a completely different life.
So his idea was: freedom, doing what I want to do, not recognizing these laws of a God who is remote, not being in the prison of this domestic discipline, but rather doing what is beautiful, what I like, possessing life with all its beauty and fullness.
And at first – we might imagine, perhaps for a few months – everything went smoothly: he found it beautiful to have attained life at last, he felt happy.
Then, however, little by little, he felt bored here, too; here too everything was always the same. And in the end, he was left with an emptiness that was even more disturbing: the feeling that this was still not life became ever more acute; indeed, going ahead with all these things, life drifted further and further away. Everything became empty: the slavery of doing the same things then also re-emerged. And in the end, his money ran out and the young man found that his standard of living was lower than that of swine.
It was then that he began to reflect and wondered if that really was the path to life: a freedom interpreted as doing what I want, living, having life only for me; or if instead it might be more of a life to live for others, to contribute to building the world, to the growth of the human community….
So it was that he set out on a new journey, an inner journey.