One of the unique characteristics of Southwest Airlines is that this airlines provides OPEN SEATING, therefore, not allowing its passengers to “reserve” favorite seats in advance. Those of us who travel often recognize that there are certain “protocols” that should be followed by ALL travelers. Protocols such as, talking softly on cell phone, quietly listening to the music on your IPOD, only occupying your space and your space alone and above all, IF THE PLANE IS NOT FULL and you find someone is sitting either in the window or the aisle seat, PLEASE DO NOT SIT IN THE MIDDLE SEAT.
Just recently as I was boarding the plane in Chicago to return to Pittsburgh with only 25 people aboard this 175 seat passenger plane. I comfortably got myself situated in my aisle seat in the bulkhead and acknowledged the woman you was sitting in the same aisle near the window, following protocol of leaving the middle seat vacant. Shortly thereafter a man boarded the plane immediately spotted the bulkhead middle seat and began trying to maneuver himself into it. As he dropped his papers in my lap he began trying to find a spot for his overhead luggage. Talking to himself incessantly, hitting me in the face with his elbows he was determined to sit in this middle seat. My prayers must have been answered as the flight attendants interceded and informed him that there were lots of seats and space in the overhead compartments further down the aisle, as the plane was not full!
I am sure that this fellow passenger just wanted to get situated, feel at ease and prepare for his journey. He, in essence, just needed to learn about the “non written rule” of “flying protocol” pertaining to seat selections! In the same way there is no doubt that God wants us to feel at ease in church when we come to worship each weekend. But what happens in His house should be a happening altogether different from our other activities during the week, including boarding a plane. God said to Moses in Exodus (3:5), "Remove your sandals. You are standing on sacred ground."
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It is written that "We come to church to worship God before whom the angels are advised to veil their faces. This is the same God at whose sight Peter and his fellow apostles broke out into a cold sweat. Unfortunately, too many of us bring a laid-back air to worship. I cannot begin to tell you how many parishioner talk before Mass, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, instead of taking this much needed time for quiet and conversation with Our Lord. Let us not forget, Our Church teaches us that WE are the ones who teach children how to behave in church; WE are the primary Catechist of our young. Think too of the way we dress coming into the presence of the King of kings. Some of us resemble "unmade beds." When I was preaching recently in Miami, one man came into church drinking a cup of coffee for his child's First Confession. I wager the wrong one went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We would do well to take a page from Muslim ritual. When they enter their mosques, they follow the advice of Exodus and remove their shoes. They wash their hands and faces to remove the world's grunge before worship. Then they are ready to worship God. They realize He is not a good uncle but rather a cyclone."
Maybe during this Lenten Season, we can sharpen our protocol in what it means to enter into the HOUSE OF GOD and not only learn the “DO’s and DON’TS” but practice them as well.