Seeing What They Carry

At church the other night, I noticed something happen during our 5pm service…

a family came in late, just after the ushers had finished passing around communion. This family found seats in the back.

I watched as two ushers hustled over to them with communion trays – they wanted to make sure everyone had been served, that everyone had the opportunity to receive the bread and cup.

This pleased me immensely. I was proud of their reaction.

And it struck me: the cup and the bread are tangible. Easily observable. Either people got them or they didn’t.

Of course our ushers want to make sure everyone has at least been given the opportunity to receive them. This is only reasonable. One could scan the room and see who is holding the bread and cup and who is not…

By looking, we can see what they carry—whether their hands contain communion or whether they are empty.

There are also (many) other things we carry that are not so visible, not so obvious, not so easily detectable.

How many people come through our doors – or into our lives – and are carrying loneliness, deep sadness, fear, regret, shame, or other unhealed wounds of the soul?

We, for the most part, want to receive them as neighbors, friends, or perhaps even as family. We know that hospitality is part of our calling as followers of Christ. And we remember that the entire set of rules comes down to two: Love God, and love people.

Loving people well often means seeing what they are carrying—so we can be part of the healing and ease the burden. It also means seeing what they are not holding—so we can hustle over, just like the ushers did on Sunday night, and serve them.

When we see people come in—either through the church doors a little late, or into our lives somehow—we should pray to see…

Spirit of God, help me to see what they are carrying. Open my eyes and move my heart with compassion. Help me to see what they are not yet holding. Show me, so I can serve them.

It’s pretty easy to see in church who is holding the bread and cup and who hasn’t been served yet. But whether they have been made to feel welcome, received, embraced, loved, or included – this is not as clearly evident.

If only there was a marker, an indication, some evidence – we could see: this person is not yet holding in their hands being “welcomed.”

Perhaps the transformation needs to happen inside us—where Spirit gives us eyes to see, and a heart that is soft toward the other, and the impulse is there to quickly serve. I’m doubtful there will ever be external signs or markers obviously announcing who feels loved and who does not.

But we are those who are led by the Spirit.

Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it. —Father Gregory Boyle



I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

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