I have always loved musical theater, though I didn’t get very involved in performing (other than that stint as a munchkin in my high school’s Wizard of Oz production). When I went to see a Broadway show a few years ago, I was first introduced to the Swings—performers who ultimately understudy for multiple tracks in an ensemble.
These highly versatile performers can memorize the choreography, the spoken lines, the vocal parts, even the backstage changes and nuances in not only multiple parts in the ensemble but sometimes in multiple companies as well. How amazing, to know the intimacy of a show perhaps better than anyone! No wonder they are highly sought after and many of them make a whole career out of it. I couldn’t imagine that right before me there were actors and actresses with that kind of talent; now whenever I go to a performance, I make sure to check out the swing parts to appreciate their presence in every production.
Think about the pressure, the mental exertion, and the nervous excitement about stepping into a certain role on a moment’s notice. Going over last-minute steps and thinking about where to stand, who to dance with, what notes to sing and when. Going onstage to a live audience. Then, being able to flawlessly—or at least expertly—execute the part. And all of that is only a tiny feat compared to Jesus becoming our savior on the Cross. He can always perfectly step into every single role needed of Him.
I recently started to reflect on my role in the Catholic Church, and how I am only one part. I don’t consistently go to Mass every Sunday (though I have been trying to renew and improve that commitment). So, to be present at Mass is a role I need to step into along with fellow Catholics. And I cannot possibly know all of the other parts of this One Body. I don’t know how they struggle, what they have gone through, whether they have ever left the Church or fallen away—all I can know is that they are part of me and I am part of them.
On the contrary, like a Broadway Swing, Jesus knows us all—and he can step in at any moment to be available in any role. He is simply amazing—man and God, multiple beings. So, also like an audience member truly appreciating a musical, we can show our reverence and awe each time we attend Mass. We can contemplate the unique mystery of Jesus becoming body and blood, and we can fall in love with each instance, every time we participate within the Body of Christ. I would attend the same musical many times—and love it over and over—which is a great reminder for the days I don’t “feel like” going to Mass. The difference is that instead of a production, the Mass fulfills us in an even more profound way. We can’t get that kind of compassion and spiritual satisfaction anywhere else—and I often need reminding of this, truthfully.
Let’s take time, first of all, to go to Mass and try making it a habit. Then, let’s appreciate and even congratulate some of the very talented people in our lives, whether they are a Swing or a musician, an architect or a designer, an artist or a dancer. The Body of Christ is made up of so many unique and beautiful people who each have roles (or multiple roles) to fill! Praise God for our gifts and the ability to share those gifts.