“Road to Emmaus”

(No, it’s not a Crosby/Hope movie. It’s taken from St. Ignatius, 17th century and to us today.)

maxresdefaultIt’s a long walk home from Jerusalem, but you’re glad for the exertion. The physical work of walking might ease, just slightly, the harder work that’s going on inside you today.

What is the work? It is the work of grief. You lost a friend just a few days ago. Not only a friend but your leader, your beloved teacher. And he didn’t simply die; he was executed in the most torturous, shameful way. You’ve seen a lot in your lifetime, but the memories of Jesus’ ordeal are forever branded into your memory. You close your eyes and see blood; you go to sleep but dream about someone suspended, gasping for air.

At least your friend is with you—both of you followed the teacher, with equal conviction and enthusiasm. So you bear your grief together now. As you walk and walk through the long, rainy afternoon, you encourage better memories—of all that the teacher said, of the people, you know whom Jesus healed. You can’t seem to stop talking, although several times one or both of you must stop talking because you must cry for a while.

The stranger joins you while you are still several miles from home. Within moments, it’s clear that this person has no idea what has been going on in Jerusalem. With great heaviness and some annoyance, you fill in the barest details for him. All you have to say is “crucifixion” and anyone in Roman territories knows exactly what you’re talking about.

But the stranger engages in the conversation with great energy. He must be some kind of teacher because he launches into an explanation of how Jesus’ fate is actually a good thing and the proper fulfillment of what was predicted long ago. This is fascinating—you and your friend are all ears. Before you know it, you’ve arrived at your home and it’s getting dark.

You invite the stranger to have supper with you and spend the night, rather than risk injury or other misfortune while on the road at night alone. Also, you want to hear more of what he has to say. He graciously accepts your offer.

The first thing you do upon entering the house is to prepare the evening meal. The three of you sit down to eat. Then the stranger takes the bread and blesses it. You feel a strange energy move through you and hover in the room.

Where have you heard this sort of blessing before?
The stranger hands each of you a piece of the bread. You take it, and memory washes over you—of a hillside with thousands of hungry people. Of a few loaves and fishes being transformed in an instant to miraculous abundance. Suddenly, it is clear who this man is, eating at your table. You look into his face.

What do you see? What is his expression? What do you feel? What do you know in the truth of your heart?
Your friend has barely gotten the words out—“Why, it’s the Lord!”—when the stranger vanishes. The room still feels strangely warm, and there are waves of that energy, like lightning sparking all over the room. You and your friend stare at one another, and finally, you say, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he explained the Scriptures? Didn’t we know something even then—we just couldn’t identify it?”

You finish your meal—what a healing pleasure to eat the bread blessed by those hands! But then you look at each other and know what you must do. You head back to Jerusalem. You have to tell Jesus’ other followers who are still there in the city.

What is your conversation like on the way back? You are traveling at night—something you never do, for safety’s sake [reflecting on a stranger’s words whom you realize is not a stranger after all]?

What does it feel like to be on the road at such a strange hour?
What thoughts keep running through your mind on this journey?
How has your perspective changed, now that you have met the resurrected Jesus?

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“Divine Mercy” & the Virus

I bought some sweaters at Goodwill wondering about the previous owners. They looked good to me. Prior guy got bored, bought something better, or did he pass away?

Secondhand is what stores like Goodwill sell. They sell you something that was previously sold to someone else. That poor sweater of mine could have had how many other wearers. And more to come when I turn it back in once I see a nicer sweater.

“Divine Mercy” is this second Sunday of Easter. There is no doubt in our minds, this very day and this very hour that this worldwide virus is anything but secondhand. Invisibly infiltrating mouths, noses, and then deep down inside the lungs.

St. Peter hits the right nail, as they say, as he told us today, “…although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for the praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Apply that reading to today’s pandemic and you may have your doubts about this loving, merciful Creator we adore. Like Thomas’ adjective to his name, how many of us can add “Doubting” before our names. We clearly know that God did not cause this terrible plague upon us. But “like gold tested in fire,” it is our unwavering trust in God that will see us through this crisis.

I mentioned secondhand before as though it’s secondary. This virus is passed from person to person. Secondary suddenly becomes primary. That’s why I’m talking to an empty church but hopefully lifting any empty spirits through our virtual Eucharist. This virus proves there is nothing virtual in our relationships – both in disease and in fellowship.

The reading from Acts is the ideal we all strive to attain. “All who believed were together and had all things in common…they devoted themselves to meeting together..and to breaking bread in their homes.”

That is the Divine Mercy in both disease and fellowship. The psalm today said, “I was hard-pressed and was falling.” It’s not easy being separated from family, friends, faith community. We love our homes but give us a break! “But the Lord helped me. My strength and my courage is in the Lord, and he has been my savior.” This becomes an internal joy, as the psalm continues. “The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just.” The joy of this day while so many needlessly die. The fragility of this human life stares us right through our masks and gloves.

Optimists say that we’ll become a better world, more united. I disagree. We’ll slowly return to our old habits. If that weren’t the case then I’d be out of a job!

“Divine Mercy Sunday,” this day is called. May this virus remind us that every day is celebrating, honoring, and claiming Divine Mercy. We earnestly pray daily for those we love, those who became or will become a number among many in the newspaper and Divine Mercy for ourselves.

On second thought, there is absolutely no doubt before my name and I sincerely hope the same for all of you.

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Light & Dark, John 3:16

I learned from a family with young children recently that when trophies are given for a sporting event, all the children receive one.

It’s a warped sense of affirmation and religiously it’s a warped sense of Christ light in today’s gospel.

When is failure taught if not at a young age? Or, do you wait until you’re thirty in a job when your project is roundly rejected? “But I have all these trophies at home,” he says at the bar after work.

Do you remember the “Clapper.” Clap once and the light turns on. Clap again and the light turns dark.

It’s the “either/or” of our culture and it’s wrong. Like giving a trophy to everyone, there is no total light or total darkness. If it’s total darkness then where does our beautiful virtue of hope reside?
If it’s total light in your life, then you’re living in La-La-Land.

Add a dimmer to your living room lamp and you may a good, healthy religious perspective. We live in neither a land of one or the other.

Being dimwitted people, we live in the dimmer of God’s glory alongside the darkness of our choice of selfishness.

Easter’s hope for us all is always aiming for the Christ light to illuminate and clearly guide our lives. The reality of our lives is the darkness that surrounds us attempting to convince us that ease of darkness wins over struggling gift of light.

The only trophy we need is the victory of Christ’s risen destruction of death; meaning darkness. We aspire through the sacraments and our prayers for the wonderful peace the light of Christ offers us.

Now that’s something to clap about…a lot.

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Good Friday, 2020

“He’s dead. He’s gone. It’s over. He’s dead. I can finally launch my new 800 number. It’s available to everyone, everywhere. 1-800-it’sallaboutme. I know it’s long but it’s surely easy to remember. Repeat number. ’One call, that’s all.’ (That guy stole it from me, by the way.) He’s dead and finished and now my 800 number becomes one-stop shopping.

(camera closeup) I’m offering a full array of skin cream. I’m noticing these bags under my eyes and how my forehead furrows. My wonderful cream can help you as well.

My 1-800-it’sallaboutme. becomes not only a telephone number but my website site, http://www.it’sallaboutme.com and additionally my own TV show, ‘The It’sallaboutme Talk Show.’

Now that he’s dead, please welcome my three special guests to my very own show, all about myself and totally dedicated to numero uno – moi. (I think that’s three languages in one…and all about me!)

Please help me welcome the selfishly, clever, ever-self-serving obsessive ruler of Judea…Mr. Double P!”

‘Thanks, Fr. Joe but no introduction is needed for me. I’m the fourth person mentioned in your Creed but now that’s he dead, I get to move up to the number one spot. “Died under me?” how ridiculous can this stuff get? You guys killed him, I didn’t.

I sing “Happy Birthday” twice when I wash my hands. My hands are clean and my lips are sealed.

He simply got in my way. All that “king” talk, dressed in purple as though he’s royalty…thorns for a crown? How’s he able to upstage me in all my pure glory? Glory! I’ve earned for offering the largest audience ever for a crucifixion. ‘Must-see TV,’ as NBC would say. Mr. Double PP stands proudly before you without him and his weird stories about the lowly becoming strong, the downtrodden raised up? He’s dead and I’m still gloriously here.’

“Thanks, Mr. Double P. My next guest on (repeat) needs no introduction. He’s holding and counting thirty pieces of it for proof. Let’s give it up for the lost apostle.”

’25, 26, 27, 28, 29…darn. Oh, Hi everyone. Yes, it’s me. One of two names you’d never name your kid. Me and Hitler. I’m not such a bad sort, looking about myself. 26, 27, 28,29. He’s dead and I’m still here. That suicide story was only if he didn’t die. But, he did. I didn’t lose my head. I have a head for numbers but my numbers just don’t seem to add up. 27, 28,29.

I seemed to have lost one. But I’ll find it. He’s gone and finally finished. He said we’d always have the poor with us…so…let the poor be poor. 28, 29. I can’t seem to get passed 29. I wonder who the rotten scoundrel is who stole my number 30 coin? I’ll find him, kiss him and then kill him just like I did the other loser. 26, 27, 28,29.’

“My final guest on ‘The It’sallaboutme Talk Show.’ will one day become the first pope. Yep. You heard me right. The guy’s dead, he’s not coming back and this joker thinks he’ll have a fancy apartment in Rome for the rest of his life. The dead guy changed his name to Peter but, you know, a ‘rose by other name…’ A round of applause for the one and only Peter!”

‘Thanks, Fr. Joe. I know he’s gone forever, never to return but that garden scene with me is just wrong. Now that’s he’s dead I can finally clarify that there was no crow. That three time denial of him was good for the media but didn’t help me, one bit.

I know he’s dead now. There’s no question about it. I liked the guy. Misunderstood him how many times. I liked him then I loved him; from like and then toward love. I’m just not sure. Honest.’

‘Well, there you have it folks, three colorful characters to testify that that guy is truly dead and now it’s all about my new telephone and website. Oh, a complete, selfish clothing line begins in about a month.

Like they do on the radio, always give the number three times. For all your foolish fools in the audience. 1-800-it’sallaboutme. That’s 1-800-it’sallaboutme. That’s 1-800-it’sallaboutme.

Call now and mention the promo code, “me” and receive a 10% discount. It’s only two letters so even fools like you and me can’t forget it.

Promo code, “me.” You people call this Good Friday. I call this the Best Friday, ever!

Easter Vigil Message, 2020

From C.S. Lewis.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

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Palm Sunday, Virus 2020

(Videotaped Mass for Queen of Apostles Parish, Pewaukee, Wisconsin.)

Our holiest of days next week is not unlike the unholiest of a family’s yearly obligatory, optional dinner gathering.  It’s the Sunday Brunch!

It’s obligatory because it’s family, it’s optional but they’ll talk about you if you don’t show up. (“And, bring a casserole to pass!”) Let the drama begin.

Because of our present crisis, it will not occur this year in its full fashion. This year you settle on your hot ham and rolls with a limited number of people, some of us honoring that holy day alone. But that doesn’t discount our memories of past Easter Sunday’s banquet full of those strange people we swear we’re not related to but call “family.”

There’s the talkative aunt, thrice-married and now dating. (I thought “three was a charm!”) There’s that prodigal son, thirty-five-year-old son who returned home with his now, new fourth investment venture that “Really can’t miss”. There’s the quiet mother preparing supper and listening to the stories of others, no one asking her much about hers. In the corner of the living room is the baffled college-age daughter, excellent grades, but wondering whether to remain a Catholic or not. Dad’s seated in his favorite chair observing all this excitement around him. He hears half of it it and ignores the other. Stories and jokes are told that have been told every year. Conversations rise louder in equal proportion to the consumed alcohol. Dad’s tired from his week’s work but happy to, again, gather them all together. Children are running around the house wondering why all those old folks are interrupting their supper. Mom told them that it’s a special night, once a year, only every year.

Once a year we gather together all the characters that make up our dramatic Christian drama. We think there’s a central character, Jesus Christ. Yet, he’s surrounded next week by all kinds of sorts. There’s that guy running to the ER with a missing ear. Those folks warming around the fire asking the future pope to declare a faith he has yet to own. Then there’s that guy with clean hands shirking responsibility and setting Anthony Quinn free. And, how about that unbelieving guy with a sword at the end of our story who then becomes a believer? Those two fellows on each side of Jesus – you know the two of them. We behave just like them. They are how often us, all performed in one day. Of course, our drama would not be complete without the dude who proudly accepts thirty pieces when he could have easily gotten fifty. (Poor guy. Both lacking in belief and poor in business.) The gent toward the end of our story who offers his resting place for the killed King of the Jew. He’s last name sound like a gentlemen’s cologne.

Like those jokes from relatives, we hear words we only hear once a year – Kidron valley, scabbard (it’s a dagger), Caiaphas, praetorium, tethered, Barabbas, Stone Pavement, and the worst of all, yet the most saving and beautiful word is: “Golgatha.”

It’s family. During our lives, we can be all the characters in our Christian drama. When we finally come to our humble and worthy senses, then we can all turn to Golgatha, that place of transformation. That place when we finally connect and unite our earthly lives to our heavenly life in God. That’s family…and that’s a meal worth celebrating.

So, take your palm, I mean evergreen and wave away. This glorious gathering only happens once a year. And this is the year that none of us will never forget. If you have children, please take extra time to explain what’s happening to implant in their brains the uniqueness of this year’s Easter celebration and how it continues because of the strength of our Catholic/Christian faith.

Next week we get to gather together around our various technologies to relive the biblical family story that caused our redemption. It’s a yearly renewing adventure for us all.

But it is no longer the Biblical character’s adventure in faith; they did theirs. Theirs’ is done. It is all ours now, even during, no, especially during this weird period. It is ours, our very own personal and familial faith adventure; in this exact time and within our very lives. Even though we are unable to honor it together, as a community of faith, in this sacred, wooded place, this place we happily call our “parish home,” “our second home.”

(walking away, I return to say,)

Oh, I almost forgot. Don’t forget the name, Mary Magdalene…next Sunday, she gets dessert first.

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Corona Virus: Want or Need?

“Between August 2016 and June 2017 I was treated for cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I entered that time as if it were a pilgrimage, guided by the adage that “the Camino gives you what you need, not what you want.” [The Camino hike in Spain is 360 miles and takes a month to complete, 14-16 miles a day! That’s off my bucket list.]

Some days were good, some not so good, but overall I did really well. So, though I had been told it was normal, I was surprised to feel mildly depressed after the final radiation treatment.

I thought a lot about Lazarus during the months before I felt restored to life. What was it like for him to be dead and suddenly find himself alive? How did it feel to emerge from the tomb, his burial bands thrown aside, his face uncovered? He was naked as a newborn, all his senses on heightened alert. He must have smelled the stench Martha worried about. His eyes once again gazed at his loving sisters and his beloved friend Jesus.

Most people have experiences that hint at what Lazarus knew. Like me, it might have been cancer or another serious physical illness. People trapped in a cycle of addiction, treatment, and relapse know it. Their families know it even more. And anyone who has experienced the mercy of the confessional knows the shock of freedom that forgiveness bestows.

Sometimes, in our panic and fear, we cry out like Mary did, ‘Lord, if you had been here . . .’ But Jesus is always with us, and he always acts ‘for the glory of God’ —sometimes when we want it, but always when we need it.”

[During these weird virus times, “Lord, if you had been here…” Not for our wants – I want this to end today! – but for our needs – patience, kindness; spiritual virtues to see us through.]

Rachelle Linner
Rachelle Linner is a freelance writer, reviewer, and a spiritual director. She has a master of theological studies from Weston Jesuit School of Theology and a certificate in spiritual direction from the Franciscan Spiritual Direction Certification Program.

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Virus & Parish “Us”

Without having planned it, this emergency situation has come to us precisely in the Lenten season. Hopefully, this present time of silence and a desert-like feeling will help us empty ourselves of any selfishness and lead us to a true Easter conversion. Let us recognize the Son of God in the suffering face of so many sick and their crying families.

Unintentionally and entirely against our will, these days confront us with the reality that we are not omnipotent. The limits of our imaginary boundaries are limitless during this time. We have to recognize and accept this – both during this trying time and in the normal times of our lives. Like Lent, this virus forces us to embrace the limits and the weaknesses that are inherent in the lives of every one of us.

What does Madagascar and Pewaukee, WI. have in common? What we’ve always had and will have in common. Our simple human lives.

This time awakens in us the importance of our deep and necessary relationships, especially those who need to be isolated or live alone. Family and friends can only be the beginning of reaching out to others. They are the building model that teaches us how to be sensitive to peoples all over the world.

This epidemic has no nationalistic feelings. The “Us vs. Them” that often plagues nations and peoples has been unfortunately but rightly replaced by the plague that erases the “Them.” It knows no borders. No one is exempt from this disease and its possible consequences. No one can escape!

“Sensitize us, Lord, to the reality of discrimination and insecurity of so many people who live in a world troubled by fear and doubt for any number of reasons.”

In normal times, how can we alleviate any discomfort and bring a glimmer of hope to those distressed? Kindness is priceless during any moment of our lives.

With the celebration of Holy Week and Easter in jeopardy, what does it mean to the Resurrection of Christ in the midst of a situation filled with apprehension and death? Can this fearful situation, never witnessed in our lifetimes, help us to pray in a different way…with more depth…not allowing fear to speak louder than hope, not hoarding in order to share, washing our hands carefully yet never, like Pilate, washing our hands toward those in need.

Before this present calamity, we were loudly and daily distracted by cultural noises and silly preoccupations. Can we learn and become quieter in order for God to speak louder to each of us? Interestingly, I happily haven’t heard about the Kardashians for a while…or Harry and Meghan. Ummm.

Can we never lose sight of our call to communicate life fully? Both within ourselves and in our actions with others? The God we know and whom we make known is the God of life and Resurrection. For the survivors, can this time live within hearts that proclaim that God has no limits, nor does death have the final power over us. We never succumb under the empire of a fear of dying, so that we do not become a counter testimony of the Resurrection.

Let this period, however long it lasts, strengthen the bonds that make every church, every faith, every faithful gathering – a demonstration, a tribute to the frailty of the human condition as well as the strengths when our lives work together, honoring and celebrating our union in Jesus Christ.

This beautiful church appears to be empty this weekend. In silence, we can hear the creaks of the wood surrounding us. This church isn’t empty. It is full of your thoughts and prayers when we are all filling ourselves with hope within your homes and hearts. Please remain safe and healthy.

I began with the phrase, “Unintentionally and completely against our wills.” What higher call then an inner trust in God, harmony toward all, and the Risen Christ’s peace to fill us.”

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Faith’s Business

“Left or right.” I’m not talking politics. A business term, “the left-hand doesn’t know what the right’s doing.” Especially true in large companies but also so very true in our clever, little minds.

If you noticed, I just canceled out the word “minds” with those two adjectives, “clever and little.”

Our minds can justify anything it wishes according to our, uh, wishes, desires. Not too often when it comes to the Gospel. To compromise the Gospel is difficult to do, if not impossible.

“At the end of the day,” another business phrase, our minds slowly merge with our souls. It’s called truth and honesty. Done in darkness to bring about light to our lives. It’s the light of an enviable merger that any corporation (I mean person) acquires. Whether in our dealings with family, friends or playing mind games in our minds, the Gospel strengthens, admonishes, corrects and compliments the efforts of each part of our lives.

More business stuff, “let’s play hardball,” “keep your eyes on the ball.” Whether you follow baseball of not, it’s a Christian focus that Christ offers us today. “Offers,” or is it “demands”? I believe it’s both. Christ demands but it remains an offer. In our free will, it’s up to us to “Knuckle Down” and “Go the extra mile” to live a meaningful, worthy, fulfilling life. (More business descriptors.)

Yet, how often we say about ourselves, “My hands are tied.” I resign myself to that “left/right” game that keeps me comfortably living and acting within my mind while I attempt to hit the “mute” button to my soul.

The soul knows what the mind needs. Forgiveness and grace, gifts only provided for us by the Holy Trinity. It took three ghosts after midnight to convince Scrooge to finally admit to himself his ultimate business. In his redemption, he says, “Humanity is my business.”

Light. City. Salt. These aren’t business terms but Christ’s lifegiving business words. A light that’s proudly placed on a lampstand. Your life, at last, becomes that city on a mountain that cannot be hidden. The salt that fills your life will never, ever lose its zest, its flavor.

Does life need to remain “left or right” or can it be a holy and enriching “left and right?”

At significant times in your life, your clever mind thinking it’s clever, sheepishly inquires of the soul, “When is this merger thing gonna happen?” The soul quickly responds back to that clever, little mind and says another business term, “ASAP.”

book_list

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Flying Home

I wake up in my Florida hotel room thinking about those upcoming six unknown hours that I thought about last night. The Web says, on a typical Tuesday afternoon there are about 6,000 airplanes delivering and receiving anxious flyers. It’s just me carting dirty laundry home.

I packed the night before wondering about weather, delays and all the hapless stories I’ve read about that hasn’t affected me in my years of air travel. (Well, only once!) Yet? Yet? No need to wait for the alarm, I was wide awake an hour earlier.

Florida-Uber-driver takes its twenty-minute drive with talk about my home weather until she asks, “What airline?” She rates me at the end of the trip and I get to rate her. What a loving relationship between two human beings sponsored by a company that has no employees but having thousands of people working for them! (I have a 4.9 rating so, I guess, a previous Uber trip about Trump did not go well. We could have talked religion.)

“Lift, pull and walk” are my three moving words returning some of my stuff to the rest of my stuff at home.

Check-in is easy. The airline survey emailed two weeks later will ask me if they used my name. If it’s not said, I don’t fault them, it’s Polish, I have to think before saying it! (And, how does pronouncing my name ensure a safe flight?!) There’s time for a smoke outside with other smokers who ignore me but some smile at my saddle shoes. (Style still counts.) Since smokers are a dying breed, you’d think a little bonding would be welcomed.

Arriving at the hub, those six hours are now reduced to three. Everything preceding it was easy. No losing shoes, belt or computer when you’re TSA approved. Leaving Milwaukee, I noticed the sign that exempts removing personal items if you’re 75 or older. At age 74, you’re still a threatening believer, but when you reach seventy-five, you say to yourself, “I’m done with all that.” At that age, you get to breeze through the line; unemptied and untouched.

Many in the airport either don’t see, spot, notice, or ignore me. To most, I simply don’t exist unless we do a bump in a crowd. It’s not an airport. It’s a town and we inhabit it, at least for a while. There’s no voting, but a hierarchy does exist. I spot the “business people” immediately for their “above it all” attitude as though they’re the pilots. The cell phone is on the right and the coffee is on the left centered by their computer. Perfect symmetry for mergers and acquisitions. There’s a couple wearing their Green Bay Packer pajamas having beers in the bar. I tell them, “I know where you’re from!” Surprisingly, I later find them seated in “business.” (Subsidy, anyone?) This town has many, many restaurants with fattening menus alongside overpriced shops offering you headphones for forty dollars. I buy a sandwich because “business” only gives you an array of free carbohydrates that even the smilingly flight attendant is embarrassed to offer you. I take two.

Finally seated, the trick to airline travel interaction is to never quickly speak to someone for fear of avoidance or pure disdain. Small talk is okay. It can lead to full engagement, however, I don’t need to hear the long story about your childhood trauma since you look sixty. (I only said that I liked your bag.) Short sentences help connect. Mentioning the Excel spreadsheet spread across your tray can work either way. (Is anyone or thing that important at thirty-four thousand feet in the air?)

Pee visits always preside boarding when you occupy a window seat. (If you want to look out, pee first.) Aisle-guy mumbles to himself, “I have my spreadsheets, my headphones and my neck rest and now you have to take a piss?”

To anyone who asks the next day about my flight, my favorite word is “uneventful.” “It was a wonderful and uneventful flight. I love flying. It was an enjoyable event with the stressful-free “un” added returning home. I used air miles to get there and received miles for using my air miles. (How often does that occur in life?) Milwaukee-Uber-guy takes me home to return my traveling stuff to my other stuff. He’ll rate me, and I’ll rate him. No talk of politics this time around.

I’m happily tired to be home again…until the next time.

book_list

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CandleMass

“Light, happiness and peace.” That’s what I say at funerals. No, this is not a depressing sermon.

Apparently, however, it appears that those wonderfully blessed and God-given words are finally announced…at your funeral! And you’re not there. You’re in that other “there,” finally enjoying what was apparently lacking here.

These days, however, we can’t say and live those three long words. “Oh, no!” We need to shorten it for the populace like we did for “light.” It’s now Miller “LITE” beer. Apparently, adding a fifth letter cost more. So, let’s call them “LHP.” Sounds like a pesticide applied to your summer lawn.

Yet, what does LITE have to say about “light, happiness, and peace?” Everything is wrong when it’s spelled LITE. Those three beautiful words are perfectly matched when they are matched with three other worthy life words, “darkness, selfishness, unrest.”

LITE is what most people expect out of life. It’s the most they can hope for. That’s pretty sad when, all the time, those fully spelled words are living within each of us. Did I mention, “wonderfully blessed and God-given words?”

I guess as you listen to me, you expect me to say this stuff because we’re in a sacred place, halfway through Mass, waiting for communion; and I’m saying what priests are supposed to say. I say it, you listen, and we all leave returning to our LITE lives.

The first reading talks about “refining,” purifying” in order for a perfect sacrifice. Sounds like darkness and selfishness to me. We know that we often fall short of that faithful mark. That’s when the refining and purifying stuff fills us up. Imagine someone with a dire diagnosis, we probably don’t need to imagine. it. We know plenty of them. Yet, how can they be full of disease and still uncover and experience peace or light, and you can just forget about the “H,” happiness? It’s because they model their lives after the woman who was also full of it herself. Hers was the grace as is the grace that fills our bodies far more than any disease can.

Diseases are often described in stages. God’s three words are not stages but slowly growing movements that only deepens and grows like the exquisite movements of a beloved symphony. A stage ends with the next one beginning. A spiritual movement blossoms into the next movement remembering the previous.

That’s what makes God’s three words eternal, immortal and living within the part of us that cannot die, the soul; the deepest part of us. “Because he himself was tested through his suffering,” says Hebrews, “he is able to help those who are being tested.” Do you want a better definition of the Body of Christ?

The Gospel has “amazed” parents and onlookers. “Contradicted” is heard a few times ending with the child growing in with three more God-given words, “strength, wisdom, and favor.” A Christian lived life can be a contradiction to common understandings or acceptances.

You don’t have to buy the “light, happiness and peace” I’m talking about. You can always default and sadly settle for the LITE of this world … that’s a fake beer and you remain uncomfortably comfortable living between the stages of darkness, selfishness, and unrest. Isn’t that a great pairing of words that we often unconsciously resign ourselves to? “Uncomfortably comfortable.” What I’m selling isn’t for sale. Through all of our life’s successes, setbacks, and settlings that we settle into, it’s already living and breathing within each of us.

But don’t take my word for it. Just look deeper within yourself.

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