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    A View from the Pew

    Mercedes verses The Angry Guy

    Mercedes verses the Angry Guy

    I finished my year as a sub-contracted pastoral musician at Emmanuel College this morning. This week, the students of the Colleges of the Fenway go into exams. School liturgies cease until August, when students return from summer break. I will return to my pew visits beginning next Sunday.

    After celebrating a really lovely sung liturgy with a fine homily this morning, Martha and I said goodbye to Mercedes. Every week, Mercedes joins the students at Emmanuel for Sunday worship. Everyone loves her. She has worshipped in Emmanuel’s chapel for fifty one years. Now, because her knees give her problems and her advanced age prohibits her ability to walk, Mercedes uses a motor cart to come to church. Everyone loves Mercedes, all four feet and ten inches of her. She never complains about her disability; she just puts it out there and motors her way into the chapel from the streets of Boston each week on what I call The Mercedes Express. She never fails to convey her gratitude to be part of a worshipping community. We all love and enjoy her upbeat spirit and positive attitude. She’s the branch that keeps on giving as she allows Christ, the vine, to nurture and feed her spirit.

    After bidding farewell to Mercedes and all our friends at Emmanuel College, Martha and I decided to enjoy brunch at Francesca’s on Tremont Street, one of our favorite Sunday breakfast bistros. After circling several streets while trying to find a parking space, my back began to really throb.

    “I see a handicapped parking place!” Martha exclaimed as we headed back on Tremont. Thank God, I thought. After a delay in traffic on the way to Boston this morning and sitting on the bench to play for Mass, I needed a ninth inning stretch before another commute home. I pulled into the parking place, hung my handicap placard on the rear view mirror and proceeded to cross the street to walk toward Francesca’s with Martha. Walking felt wonderful.

    On a beautiful spring day, the sidewalks of Boston become a beehive of activity. People stroll, enjoy street fairs, eat at outside cafes and gather in groups to chat or to people watch. As Martha and I made our way through the lattice of sidewalk traffic, a voice from a car window bellowed at the two of us from an open car window.

    “Which one of you is disabled?” a man bellowed from the driver’s seat in his Lexus.

    I think that my hand went to my chest. Did I really hear him shout that question? I thought incredulously.  

    “I am,” I stated, looking directly at him.

    “Yeah, right,” he replied dubiously with a side sneer.  

    I reiterated my statement while looking straightforwardly into his eyes. “Really; I am permanently disabled.”

    “Oh. Okay,” he grunted and he accelerated his Lexus to move his vehicle forward on Tremont Street.  

    Fury replaced my earlier euphoria from the morning’s liturgy. “If this guy had been within my reach, he’d be missing his nose,” I muttered under my breath. And then I stopped and thought about Mercedes.

    Because of her age and use of a mechanical device designed for people with walking issues, no one thinks to question Mercedes’ disability. For the community that gathers for worship at Emmanuel, Mercedes is a hero. But how many people who worship in our communities struggle with unseen and hidden difficulties? Do we unwittingly bellow through the windows of our sacred texts that diminish or judge members of our communities who may be different, challenged, struggling? Are we indifferent to their struggle to fit in, be a part of an accepting community? “Live in my love with all your heart,” we sang this morning. Do we?

    The man in the Lexus showed me his disability this morning. I admit that it took me awhile to swallow my irritation and dismiss my own diminishment and embarrassment in the middle of Tremont Street to understand his impairment. He’s an angry guy and I admit that I still want to take him out. Okay, okay. I need a ton of pruning. In today’s gospel, that’s exactly what Jesus asks of us all: to trim away the dead branches that live within us and live in him so that we can, like Mercedes, produce a lot abundant fruit that feeds the world. And I have miles to go before I sleep.

    Happy gardening.