I sit in a row towards the back of church, on the right side, for Mass early on Saturday mornings. As though 8am Mass on a sleep-in Saturday wasn't enough of a sacrifice after a long week, I have found lately that there is a little smacking sound that occurs behind me. The past few Saturdays this little old woman comes in late and sits just a few rows back, in the corner, and utters this uncontrollable, rhythmic lip-smacking sound every minute or so. The first time it happened I did everything I could to drown it out- I tried to focus on other sounds like the people up front chanting a mismatched and weirdly timed communion antiphon, I looked at the little girl coloring a few rows ahead, I even put my fingers over my ears! It was so hard to tune out.
But at some point, perhaps right after communion, I thought briefly of St. Therese of Lisieux and her ability to overcome her frustration with one of the sisters in her convent who made an annoying clacking sound during their prayer time. I suddenly felt this subtle realization: the annoying SMACK-SMACK-SMACK coming from this woman's lips that has agitated me so much could very well be the beating heart of Christ. As I entertained this realization I started to imagine the sounds as tiny heartbeats- thump-thump, thump-thump...Heartbeats that remind me of the presence of Christ who is always and in every moment asking me to draw nearer to Him, to His beating heart. Heartbeats that remind me also of Christ's very presence in this little old woman who I let agitate me so much. In our world it is so easy to forget to listen to Christ's heartbeat amongst the noise and slight frustrations, and how much more easily it is to forget His presence in those who annoy us the most.
You may be thinking, "Well, that's nice that she can think that way." But really consider this: what are those agitating sounds within your life that could be transformed into the loving, merciful heartbeat of Jesus, calling you nearer to His heart? A car alarm that goes off right outside your office that seems to go on forever? A small, frustrating repeated habit of a coworker that annoys you to the bitter end? Or one of your kids, constantly nagging you to play their favorite game with them, what seems like every hour of every day? ...thump-thump, thump-thump... May we let those annoyances be transformed into the reassurance and awareness of Christ's presence in our lives and the fact that He is always waiting, listening to us in every moment if we would only draw nearer. -Erin K. McAtee