We have spoken recently about trouble with 3 year old boys, and mine is giving me fits! This morning I was on my own (with five kids) for Mass, and my little boy made me so angry that I, well, got angry. Getting angry in church gives me a feeling of frustration and guilt which sometimes makes me even more angry, either at the child or, for some reason, at the Church, God or the Priest. This is usually followed by an internal debate about whether or not, being this angry at a baby for not staying still, the priest for giving a homily or God for asking me to attend church makes me unprepared to receive the Eucharist.
This morning, however, something different happened. When I took the noisy child to the vestibule, I looked him right in the eye and said "we are offering this hour to God, however imperfectly." Speaking these words, I internalized them, and I remembered that the imperfection of his behavior and the imperfection in my heart were both, to my Lord, childish imperfections. Only Christ is the perfect sacrifice, and His sacrifice perfects ours.
I think of it like this: my children are learning to make their beds. They straighten the sheets and pull up the blankets, but the bed is still a wrinkly mess. I appreciate their efforts and I take time to smooth the covers, so that the bed is well made. I know that they will keep working at it, that they will have good days and bad days, and that if I expect them to do a "grown up" job I am being too hard on them. I do, however, expect them to try.
God is a strict but loving parent, I know that He wants me to do the best I can to prepare for the Eucharistic sacrifice, but that he is also expecting to have to smooth out a few wrinkles in my soul before it is ready to receive the body of Christ.