By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published August 4, 2011
During the past couple of weeks, I have run into a number of folks at the grocery store, the cleaners, and the gas station—usually I was in casual attire and garnered a few quizzical glances before we identified one another as a member of a parish or from a school in the Archdiocese. Summertime is filled with many such informal encounters as lots of people are on vacation or away from their ordinary routines—including the Archbishop!
Since many of our archdiocesan staff members take a well-deserved break during the summer, I end up doing some of the chores around my home that are usually done by other folks—I must say that I enjoy encountering our people in those ordinary activities that most people do each day. I think that many of them like to see me in the everyday places doing those things that everyone must regularly do.
I recall that a year or so ago, I ran into one of the well-known corporate business leaders in our community who at the time of our impromptu encounter was taking out the family garbage for next morning pick-up. He smiled at me and told me that he was just doing his regular chores around the house! It was charming to see that even highly influential and wealthy people indulge in the mundane household tasks that we all take for granted.
One of my favorite phrases in the Liturgy comes from the IV Eucharistic Prayer when the Church prays, “He was a man like us in all things but sin.” The new translation of this text will pray, “He shared our human nature in all things but sin.” The Church delights to remind us that Christ is truly like us, that He embraces our humanity and therefore understands the secrets of our hearts. The Incarnation means that God truly embraces our humanity—God knows what it is like to be human—because He Himself has become human. God has become approachable and invites us to draw near to Him. Because of God’s humility, we mere mortals are beckoned to share in His Divine Life.
We like to see even famous people engage in the ordinary tasks of life—it makes them more real and approachable. A couple of months ago, Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote in his weekly column that he enjoys putting on casual attire and going to a local parish for confession. He said that this reminds him of the great equality that we share as we all admit our sinfulness and seek God’s Mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation. He knows that because of his office, he could have a priest come to him for this sacrament, but there is something engaging in his donning ordinary attire and waiting in line with all the other sinners to seek God’s forgiveness.
People may like to see the Archbishop stand in the checkout line in the grocery store or wait his turn to buy stamps at the post office or even quietly wait for the next confessor to be available since these acts confirm our common condition and reaffirm our closeness. A high-powered executive becomes just a husband and father in the ordinary event of taking out the garbage as a member of a family with shared responsibilities. These simple actions may help all of us understand more completely the meaning of those cherished words of the Church’s Liturgy that tell us that God Himself freely draws close to us in His Incarnate Son.