Advent’s Anticipation

“Wait, wait,” we hear far too often. “Just wait, it will come.” Waiting. It’s an anxious word. Uneasy, even agitating. You arrive in Florida for your January vacation. You’re told your room will be ready in about an hour when you made your reservation months before. “About.” So you sit and stew at the pool with eighty degrees sunshine in your Wisconsin’s winters while everyone else is in the water. “About an hour.”

I already told you that I woke up in early November to Karen Carpenter, hoping I have a “merry little Christmas now.” Now? We already know of Halloween decorations mis-timings. And, how many Black Friday’s preceded the one yesterday? Waiting.

We’re in such a hurry to hurry forth what can only be slowly brewed. Have you ever watched a pot of coffee brew, staring at it with early-morning-eyes and wondering why that noise hasn’t stopped yet? When the gurgling subsides, the sound of pouring takes over and you can savor and endure the new day that lays before you. That first taste. That first taste that says, “Yes, I am alive, and I am here.” If you’re not a coffee person, then recall how your own waiting is eventually satisfied.

We can’t just wait. People wonder now in which future minute I’ll be done talking. Poor things. Don’t you wonder how we stay alert and watchful, as Jesus asks of us? Jesus doesn’t ask us to wait. It’s too bothersome. He asks us to be watchful of things around us, to be attentive and anticipate. “Staying awake” means being aware and alive; keeping your eyes peeled. Welcoming the stranger, alert to what’s behind mean words and actions, accepting a compliment instead of saying that stupid line, “Oh, it was nothing.”

Waiting. It might be the bus, the long-awaited niece’s visit, that promised phone call, a hospice nurse telling you that your friend’s time is near, the whistle to blow, the alarm clock to stop on its own, the friend with his long-winded story that you’ve heard three times before, the mail to arrive, for your 90th birthday to finally come, when will my forty-year-old son finally move out?, for my Christmas package to arrive at her home on time, for the season of spring, for the nurse to finally call my name after 45 minutes sitting next to the sign that reads “If your name has not been called in fifteen minutes…”, for the test results to be given to me, will I wake up in purgatory or heaven?

We hate to wait, so what do we do in the meantime? We hurry things up, making them happen according to our personal calendars and whims. We predict the end results without living the means. “I’d thought you’d never arrive,” you say when she does arrive.

What do Advent and Lent have in common besides the color purple? Both are about transformation. Just as Jesus was transformed from Divinity to humanity we are called to transforms our lives. It’s not always about change, because that happens at any age, but it is also about strengthening the gifts and talents given us by God.
 
Waiting is strictly only about time. Anticipation is all imagination, wonder, mystery, and surprises. So, lose your wristwatch of waiting and put on the hat or scarf of anticipation. Please absorb the sights and sounds of this marvelous Church season. Do so with the eyes of an eight-year-old mingled with the wisdom of your years. Ironically, Advent is a one-time event, honored and repeated for us every year. Our heavenly waiting is preoccupied with time. During this meantime, rely instead on the anticipation of mystery that is Advent. That’s the fullness of the Advent experience. Advent now becomes a blueprint for our everyday lives and no longer a restricted season. Please don’t miss a moment of it because life’s moments only last that long. 
Advent doesn’t need to be synonymous with that dreadful word waiting. Advent can be full of that beautiful and engaging word anticipation. I pray that your anticipation of Christ’s birth this year may be incredibly thankful and enriching to you, your family, and your friends.

And now, you may stop waiting, I’m done.

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Eight Letters With a Space Between Two Words.

It’s eight letters with a space between two words. It’s said in passing, offhandedly, like a breath has left you – very often, waaaay too often. Most of the time only five of the eight are said, with a “s’ added at the end. That’s sad. It’s only said and received with sincerity when two pair of eyes meet. It’s only remembered with genuine gratitude when it touches two hearts. It’s commonly repeated after it’s been said to you, as though not heard the first time. Or, you reciprocate as though doubling the pot.

It’s always the checkout person. Why do preachers always use a checkout person as the loneliest person on the planet? The “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” is said as you and your package walk away.

At nicer restaurants, we repeat it again and again to helpful waitpersons who constantly approach us. It’s said hoping by saying those – “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” – will allow us to quietly enjoy our meal. At cheaper restaurants when the “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” is replied, the waitress’ response is, “No problem.”(I didn’t think I was a problem in the first place! Doesn’t that suggest that the BLT I ordered became a problem for both the cook and staff?!

To God, the “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” is used when what you asked for happens. Granted by God? Pure luck? The better girl got sick before the big sporting event and your daughter won. It’s said to the Almighty as though the Almighty, in His many preoccupations, occupied your small corner of the world.

Those “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” slowly begins to be used with a cancer diagnosis when those patients tell me that the simple word “life” takes on a new and deeper meaning. Every month is a good time for saying those eight letters but November stands out. Remembering in gratitude those no longer here but strongly present in minds and souls. It’s also Turkey time with family and friends, except for this year. A November tribute for us all can be to think of those eight letters with whatever is valuable but taken for granted – in both things and especially persons.

The three-year old can’t wait to say those “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” when her pony arrives at Christmastime. (Just try placing a surprise horse under your Christmas tree?!) College kid is waiting for grades to be posted before saying those precious “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” even though study habits where interrupted at the neighborhood bar the night before.

You and I make those “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words” at the end of some favorable result when these eight letters are the very beginning and the very end of each and every day. And, especially said during those painful, doubtful, and troubling middle times that some days offer.

Each of our breaths ought to express those “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words”. We’re never quite sure why we were created, or why eight-five years old ask why they are still here. We, indeed, are here in this specific time and in this specific space.

I extend my eight letters to anyone suffering, mourning or worried this very day; don’t give up. To anyone thinking they have the favor of God or who believes if I do this or that in the Church then that will happen; good luck with that. To all who finally admit personal emptiness allowing the Holy Trinity to fill that void; those eight letters are followed by “God bless you.”

I believe it’s all found in our breathing. No matter what. Life. No matter how. Life. In both the ins and outs of each breath, we humbly and proudly say to our Creator,

Those “eight-letters-with-a-space-between-two-words”.

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One Tiny Flame

The Parable of My Tiny Flame on My Kitchen Table

(Please listen for these four words and their application to your lives)
single flame:  the pilot light of our lives that burns that is needed to burn throughout our lives.

scent:  the promises of life that are not always realized; whether real or imagined.

wax: those who support and encourage us keep the flame alive and those who intrude wanting us to be like them overwhelm the single flame.

re-enactments: in reflection, we often try to redo or reshape already made decisions, or unmade decisions, missed opportunities, or opportunities that went sour as though enacting them again will change the result.

There it is, lit. It took longer to light this time because the wick is lower and I just can’t seem to reach deep enough inside to relight it.  But I did.

The house is still heated, I can’t rely on that little flame to flame forth a comfortable, warm winter home. Heck, if I quickly stood up right now I think it’d go out. Oh, wait. Forget that. I just tried it and it didn’t go out; this little, small flame on my kitchen table with a supposed spruce scent that “fills the room” as the box falsely described. I didn’t buy the candle for the scent although a nice scent would be nice.

It flickers, ever so slowly as it tries to keep itself alive. The wax surrounding it allows the tiny flame to stay lit. Is it enough to turn off the kitchen light? I’m not even trying because it’s a silly question. If it can’t heat, it certainly can’t illuminate.

I like the teeny flame because it seems to show everything when it’s barely shows anything. If folks walked into my kitchen now they would not say, “Oh, what a beautiful flame you have going here.” It wouldn’t be noticed. It would remain an unsaid piece in the room. None would comment on the scent as the box described and our conversation would move to topics that interest them.

But they are not here. It is just me and a single, miniature version of those real flames that surround a veteran’s memorial or a park’s statue. My tiny flame doesn’t mark great and grand events but only the passing thoughts that pass my mind as quickly as they enter. Random, varied; none solved or resolved. Perhaps a few reenactments of life’s happenings that cannot be re-enacted run through my mind. In my mind, it seems productive even when the reproduction turns out the same. It’s my single flame. 
I considered a larger candle, hence a larger flame but thought, “Why?” as I stare at my small version.

Wax builds up around fueling my flame. That same surrounding wax can keep my tiny flame vibrant and alive but the same wax can also drown it. Without careful observation on my part, the wax may extinguish my undersized flame. Interesting how the needed wax can also become the drowning wax. I need to keep the minute flame lit every minute I observe it. And, even more, interesting is that my tiny flame is what makes the wax heated.

One flame. In spite of the box description, no scent. No one around to comment, criticize, weigh, or measure my kitchen flame with my meandering, momentary, passing thoughts. Watching carefully now so the heat-filled wax only strengthens and doesn’t diminish.

It’s my night. It is my single flame. I don’t mind that I missed out on the promised scent. It’s my flame. And, in the darkness of winter, my tiny flame is all the more important. 

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“Investment, Yield, Return”

(Jesus’ parable of the “talents,” Five becoming ten, Two becoming four and one remaining only one.)

We can all share a story or two or maybe even more about lost or wrong opportunities because of wrong thinking, impulsive thinking, bad advice, fear, greed, selfishness. And, I’m not up here talking about money.

Jesus uses money as an image for investments. Funny, this from a guy who doesn’t have any, uses that image often for us folks who know a thing or two about currency. But the first of three words to remember is investment. Whether in your personal development, your relationships, your marriage, your relationship with the Trinity – how much are you willing to invest?

We believe, in faith, that investing in God is the only winning choice. That’s what we think but is that how we behave? 

It’s those shortcuts when we told Jesus that we’re all in, that threesome we call, “lock, stock, and barrel”. But did we mean it? It’s the fork in the road when we traveled left, the wrong way, and now backing up the car to take the other way. (And, I’m left-handed. Why is the right way always the way right?)

What is our personal investment in this journey we call life? Our investment is only the beginning. We immediately inquire about our seriously second, financial word, “yield.” What’s our reward for this substantial investment? If you say, Heaven, then you are being selfish and “holding on to your own,” as the saying goes.

I dislike the word reward when it comes to eternity; that life after this life. The yield of our carefully, protected investment is lived right here, right now. So, put on your seatbelts – a fulfilling, enriching, exciting, scary, wondering, doubting, lest we forget mysterious, humbling, devotional, even humorous, nourishing, centuries-tested, forgiving, celebrating, lonely, uniting, death-defying, fulfilling but wanting even more, grace-filled and leaving us speechless. 

And, yet again, another financial term completes our trio, “return.” Three financial words – investment, yield, return. Those earthly felt feelings that we yearn for? They are divinely provided for us through every, single situation in our lives.

Marry those three business words to these three words Father, Son, Spirit and we then have what’s called a sacred, blessed, holy life. Financially, it’s not a bargain. Perhaps, even a bad risk for what’s called for in our lives. It becomes a divine investment. Not of our making ours for the taking.

There’s is no bartering with God. Bragging about your Mexican trip and the scarf you bought talking him down two dollars may sound good at a cocktail party but doesn’t match the only investment that God demands of us. And, we know God’s investment. I don’t need to tell you.

Please note, “Taxes and penalties on early withdrawals vary by account type (Traditional or Roth). If you plan to withdraw your money early, please consider the following IRA rules: Your withdrawal may be taxed. You may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.”

But, whatever, have a nice day.

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“All Saints,” Opposites Unite

Up or down. Asleep or awake? Then there is also big, small and the colorless black, white. Life’s opposites. Or, so we think. It’s been said that in dating, opposites often attract. In religion we believe the opposite of opposites. In religion, opposites unite. In daily life, it makes sense to keep opposites opposite, as they are defined. The Christian paradox is living with a trusting faith about opposite’s unique oneness. The prayer that even an Alzheimer’s patient can still say, says it all, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Another favorite of us all is, beginning and ending.

Between the new seed and the fully grown tree, a fourth century saint wrote, “Born a man [Jesus] was humbled like a seed and in ascending to heaven was exalted like a tree. It is clear that Jesus is a seed when he suffers and a tree when he rises. He is a seed when he endures hunger and a tree when satisfies five thousand men with [only] five loaves. In the one case, he endures barrenness in his human condition, in the other he bestows fullness by his divinity. I would dare that the Lord is a seed when he is beaten, scorned, and cursed, but a tree when he enlightens the blind, raises the dead, and forgives sins.”

The Gospel says, “Unless the grain of wheat, falling upon the earth dies, it remains only a…”

How often we think sin and grace are earthly opposites when they are spiritually united. Admitting a failure or sin is awakening a growing grace. Receiving absolution provides the sacramental grace to continue living with a renewed commitment to our Creator.

Opposites? Ummm…

It’s a word that should never be uttered in church or lived within our souls. November is our remembering month. Honoring those who have died, especially during this year. Talk about a union! Through the death of the earthly Jesus arises the new life of the risen Christ. We often think that Jesus’ last name is Christ. It’s not. It’s the perfect oneness of opposites that God intended. Putting those two words together for a living faith gives us the full name toward our salvation, “Jesus Christ.” That’s your proof of the union between knowing about this life but believing, with all your mind, heart, and soul in the life that is eternal. Here’s two more opposites for us folks of faith.

Well, here’s your uniting sentence to take home with you this week and prayerfully ponder. This temporary, passing happy earthly journey is but a taste, a sample of the eternal joy promised us by God.

So, what about the opposites of beginning and ending? Like a good sermon, both are respected today.

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“Imitation of Christ,” 30th Sunday

My neighbor’s two-year old son carries around the doll named Sheriff Woody. Just try taking Woody away from him. How often is Marlon Brando mentioned by actors as a model. Either to meet his standards or surpass them?

How many saints looked to Jesus Christ as a model. Meeting his standards may prove a difficult feat but attempting to meet them is the call of the saints. And, I may suggest, to all of us budding saints.

St. Paul uses the word “imitators” today and it caught my eye. Girls walking around in mom’s big high heels shoes and boys holding a pretend cigar (at least during my youth). Thinking about the neighbor kid, his dad told me that he’s absorbing stronger than a sponge and observing every movement of mom and dad. What his growing brain does with all that information is anybody’s guess but it’s all resting and living up there.

Jesus gives us the greatest challenge of our earthly lives in a short, succinct declaration. A loving declaration about love. There’s our life’s bar. Repeating, it’s not to reach that Christ bar because failing and fail again we will, yet our attempts, our daily efforts is well worth imitating.

We read and hear often about being Christ-like. It’s almost admitting missing the bar from the start. Still, time to time it also implies that that “like” is possible. It’s like the teenager who uses the word “like” six times in one sentence trying to describe what is difficult to accurately describe.

I’m in a store small talking with the clerk waiting for my bill. He looks at me and says, “You look like Fred MacMurray.” I said, “Fred MacMurray!” I was holding out for Brad Pitt. However, Fred’s earlier photos do bear a resemblance. 

Ezekiel hits us hard this weekend saying we were all aliens at some point. A good message for our nation these days. Lend money and ask for no interest. Compassion, anyone? Returning his cloak before sunset because the owner only owns one. Kindness, anyone? And, I know a lot of widows but no orphans. After hearing Ezekiel, I hope no wrong ever comes from me to hurt them.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Oscar is partly correct. Nevertheless, and all the more, we are not mediocre. Our baptism in dying to ourselves and rising with Christ is our homage paid “to greatness.” No one can flatter the Son of God. You know, sometimes it is okay to copy someone’s work. Go ahead and peek over to the next desk where the smartest kid sits. We look to Christ through his words and in his sacrifice to copy from his test of life modeling the test for ours. For he was found worthy, this sacrificial lamb. Found worthy to be imitated, again, again and again, and declared out loud once more, “again.”

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Unsaid But Felt Words

Here’s two words you’ve never used in sentences your entire life. You’ve surely felt and experienced them but never having them leave your lips. They are St. Paul words. “Yearning and groaning.”

Today it’s the tension between Caesar’s tax and giving to God what belongs to God. Jesus cleverly wins another argument by making that distinction. “Nary the two shall meet!”

We groan and yearn so very often for Divine intervention and spiritual support. Yet, I’ve not heard anyone say, “I yearn for April 15!”

This is the temporal, earthly escapade versus the Divine, spiritual ecstasy. Our timely time here and the timeless bliss of life eternal.

“Nary the two shall meet?” Here’s a good way remember the dissimilarity of the two. In the “Here and Now,” you have the threesome, “Me, Myself, and I.” Selfishly stated, how often we think to ourselves, “What’s in it for ‘me?’” Then drilled into our heads since childhood is the equally uncaring “Myself.” We’re taught to be Clint Eastwoods’ in our supposed independence and freedom. Yet don’t touch my Medicare, or my pension, and never call me on Tuesday mornings because of Walgreen’s discounts for seniors. The “I” is the simplest. Just recall how many of your daily sentences begin with that one, miserly letter. That’s the temporal, earthly version.

The Divine spiritual version also has three. They are the names we gesture at the beginning and ending of each Mass.

So, there’s the difference. Or, is there a difference? I was wrong, as usual. The three Divine names are relied upon especially during our difficult, trying times. We yearn and groan for patience and joy during that time. Now that’s a union. Also, during tranquil times in our earthly lives we generously lift up praise and thanksgiving to those heavenly three. Those heavenly three who touch every inch of our temporary, fleeting time.

This union also works in reverse. Our earthly adventure finds its purpose and meaning in spiritual thoughts. And, especially in human actions prompted by Divine inspiration and spiritual interaction. This union of the two softens and makes sense of our dwindling time aiming toward that time without end.

Speaking of ending. You may be now groaning trying to make sense of what I’m saying. You also may be yearning for a conclusion. Well, being the spiritual person that I am and aware of your time, I happily grant your two wishes.

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Opening Three Gifts for God

“A feast of rich food and choice wines” may very well be the hopeful thoughts of those on dialysis three times a week.

“On this mountain, he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples,” may very well be the revelation that you do not know everything about everything just because you watch cable news every night.

“The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face,” might very well be a year after the death of someone you love. You still tear, but at that time, that time is accompanied by a smile for having known that person.

Finally, in the last of my Isaiah excerpts is “let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us.” That may very well mean that salvation is given us as a gift—the gift of God’s Son. 

Dare we open that gift? (I feel like Monty Hall.) Gift number one. Do you rip the wrappings off and quickly look inside? Or, gift number two, do we carefully unwrap this precious gift because grandmother is watching and wants to reuse the wrapping next year? One more “or.” Or, gift number three, do we put the gift aside and wait for some setback or disappointment to occur before we slyly peek inside?

Those are my three questions for us fellow faith travelers on our way to Matthew’s Gospel of the great wedding feast. The wedding feast of life eternal. The wedding feast that doesn’t need to wait. For it can also be celebrated every single day here and now. 

The first is the ripoff. It’s someone else’s faith that you fool yourself into living. Faith passed on? Yes. Faith owned? No. Two of my sisters were nuns, and my brother was a Christian Brother. All three quit. When I was in eighth grade, the undertone from my parents said, “Not are you going to the seminary, but which seminary are you attending?” It worked for me because of question number two. My three siblings are all spiritual but uncovered and lived in their own discovery.

Most three questions save the correct or best answer for last. This time I sandwiched the best one in the middle. It’s the number two method for opening this magnificent gift we call faith. (Forget grandma, she’ll get the wrapping.) It’s the slow exploration of faith – questioning/learning, doubting/accepting, struggling like Jacob and the angel while knowing that angels always win. That’s the carful and deliberate formula for revealing religious mystery after religious mystery to us. Wondering about some of them, cherishing and holding on others, and smiling at the rest. 

Folks, this faithful journey of life, is truly the number two gift. “Walking in the mystery of life,” a pastor friend told me years ago, and she was right. It’s not always complete acceptance, as though God is the only One in charge or that we’re solely in charge. It is always a giving over ourselves to something (Church) and someone (Jesus Christ).

Gift number three? It’s the cheapest and most convenient gift. But, remember that it is still a gift from God. Number three is the emergency box at restaurants and hotels. When an emergency falls upon you, you break the glass, grab the ax, and hope for the best. Not worthy of our Creator, but, I’m told, it still works. But here’s the spoiler alert for gift-opener-of-number-three. Be careful what you wear to a wedding because you may not have been invited.

Dialysis, cable news, and tears. I hold out for gift number two through all times of life; good, threatening, or indifferent. Wrapping neatly folded and never forget to save the bow and then proudly hand it to grandma, I mean God.

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God’s Vine and Us

It’s a “vineyard” weekend in the Catholic Church. It’s a striking image describing our connections and relationships with each other. Now, many of us don’t know that much about vineyards unless you live in River Hills.

Isaiah tells us to “sing” of a vineyard. I don’t know a vineyard song, but I know that music always unites people, unless it’s rap or a polka. Lest I digress. Creating the choicest of vines for the finest wines. But the vine needs to produce in a community of elements; hence a unison, otherwise it’s just silly wild grapes. Pruning or being hoed just won’t work. The vine ends up being thrown in the fire. Pretty sad stuff, don’t you think? The virus was supposed to unite us, as many other tragedies have done. So much for that vine. This parish keeps us connected to both God and each other, and I think we’re doing an excellent job, even though I’m still the new guy.

But hey, in thinking about this weekend, at least for me, I discovered a new word. It’s tendril. Tendril is a leaf that’s attached and supports that ever-climbing thing we call a vine. This new word provides life-giving energy, even sacrificial in giving its very life for the support of the entire vine. Tendril. A new term with an old meaning.

You all know the rule: I can’t sleep tonight until I put it in a sentence and make tendril my own.

We say that we’re social animals, yet how many of those times do we love to beat up everybody around us. “No one does things as well as I do,” we smugly say to ourselves. Try recalling your relationships or encounters this past week and consider how tendril you were. (Hey, I just made a noun a verb. But not a very good sentence. I’m still working on my one sentence.) We love judging and admonishing members of our family, even when sharing the same blood, but somehow that relative’s “tendril is not like mine,” we selfishly say to ourselves. Or, how about two strangers? Like that male receptionist or the young girl at the bank? What connections can be shared between two human beings, known or unknown?

All of St. Paul’s writings are about tendriling our way through life. He’s either writing angrily about divisions in this town against that other town, or he’s writing enduring poetic poetry about the union between the Trinity and us, and about keeping you and me an “us.”

“Whatever” is the beginning of Paul’s litany. It’s not said like a valley girl, “What ever” as though anything goes, but it is the faith-filled “whatever” to be relied upon in any of life’s situations. What words follow Paul’s “whatever?” How about “Honorable, just, pure, lovely.” I told the male receptionist that I liked his hair cut; it’s the look where it’s real short all around but full on top. His eyes beamed wide with his “thank you.” Paul’s final word after saying whatever is gracious. Frankly, the most vital blessing given to anyone.

Before we eat we say, “Let’s say grace.” We begin each Mass with the powerful “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I told the bank clerk whose counting out my withdrawal cash that I liked her nails, multicolored; must be important to her. Her smile back to me said it all.

This is “Respect Life Month,” the first Sunday in October. It’s a serious time to rethink our attitudes and renew our beliefs in the sanctity of life. Life, from the tiny hands we see on billboards to, hopefully, the wrinkled, well-worn hand we lovingly hold onto at her deathbed and offered up to God.

Tendril. Just try telling me the next time that guy’s fixing his hair and she’s scrambling to get her nails down before work that they are not thinking of my compliment, not me, but only my fleeting, five-second sincere comment.

As usual, Jesus has the final say today about vineyards. His is the Old Testament, and New Testament combined. Cancel cable and just read the Old Testament stuff with lots of mayhem and killing to satisfy any male twenty-year old’s appetite inside of us. New Testament stuff is that the kingdom of God will continue to grow, with or without you. But along with you because of God’s grace and our willingness to say ‘yes.” Because God’s kingdom is not of our making or water to the vine. Ours is an honorable, just, pure, lovely, and a gracious participation. Why? We are tendril continuing to grow the Divine vine.

Sorry folks, but I can’t use tendril in a decent sentence. I think it’s because it’s not only a noun but can become an adjective, verb, and even an adverb. That word becomes our living vocabulary due to the threesome we call the Trinity and the other three’s expressed daily in our lives: in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

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“It’s the ‘Three’s’ of Spirituality”

We just love our “the threes.”

How many jokes are told in threes, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar…” Then there’s Patty, Maxine, and Laverne, and how about “Ready, set, go?”

“Father, Son, Spirit,” anyone? We honor this weekend welcoming three people fully into the Catholic Church when receiving not two but three sacraments; Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. (Too bad we didn’t have this service at 3:00 p.m.)

Jesus didn’t die at five o’clock, nor did he spend a week in the tomb. The whale story was not about four days. Judas received three times 10. Peter doesn’t just lie once, ohhh nooo, he had to hit that magical number. Wisconsin has three of them: summer, fall, and drawn out winters.

The number three. Living life’s triad. Baby, adolescent, adult. Morning, noon, and night.

There’s a biblical story that’s not found in the Bible. This story explains living our lives through three objects. The story’s called “Jack and Beanstalk.” The objects are “magic beans,” “a harp,” and a “golden egg.” Life’s mystery trying to be interpreted.

The “magic beans” are gained by selling the animal that makes milk or (Sorry, moms) “mother.” Eventually, we need to trade mother for our own maturity, our own responsibilities, “to be on our own?” anyone? With those “magic beans,” a “vine of life” rises before and above us; “the sky’s the limit?” anyone? Those beans create a life vine enabling us to steal that “harp” and that “golden egg.” Stolen to become our own. “Nothing in life is free?” anyone?

                                More religious stuff after this short break. 

There’s Larry, Curly, and ? Later there was Larry, Curly, and ? Ummmm. “Five Musketeers?” No, subtract two. How about three soldiers with one match? “Shake, rattle, and __?” I don’t follow sports, but I do know about the Chicago Bull’s threesome. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and…and…Dennis Rodman. And then there’s “six legs and a bra.”

                                             Now back to the good stuff.

The “harp” is our professional lives – recognizing and using our gifts. We say to ourselves before our first job interview, “to make something of ourselves.” You almost need to steal the job you want. Rarely, just handed to you. Then your contribution to this world is the beautiful sound of the harp. The melody of your life is fulfilling your passion, as any occupation ought to be.

We all know that eggs break easily. That’s why the “golden egg” from our fable is the fragility of this human life. The egg of our personal, private lives. Twitter, Facebook, and others can unknowingly but easily crack the “golden-ness” of that precious gift. The precious gift of our own self-esteem, our worthiness before others, and most especially before God.

One traded, two stolen—the critical “threes” for a thankful, gratifying God-like life journey. The three sacraments received this weekend makes “Jack’s” fairy tales gifts come true. The rituals are the graces freely given by God. The Holy Spirit’s gifts of fortitude, strength, the awe of God, and the rest of them breathe life into Jack’s fabled gifts. To own them, to live them, to witness them and to share them with others. All empowered through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m done but here’s three more. You remember, “Faith, hope, and charity?” Tony Orlando’ sang don’t hit the pipes but knock that many times on the ceiling. And, do you remember the Motown sound of Diana, Mary, and Florence calling themselves…?

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