“Reasonable Doubt”

153fish“There has to be a reason,” we say about the car accident, being fired, battling cancer or winning the lottery. I’ve never believed in reasons. I like the phrase, “What we do to life and what life does to us.”

It’s not the meaning before something happens but its meaning and application to our lives after. Where God’s finger pokes into our lives is a mystery to all us all. It’s anyone’s guess. The guidance of the Trinity is a no-brainer to Christian believers. I’ll never say at a funeral that God “Called so and so home,” or “God wanted an angel in heaven.” (I think that’s against the law in most states.)

It’s the 153 large fish that caught my eye in this Sunday’s Gospel. I’m not an accountant (I don’t balance my checkbook!) but I know all kind of number games can be played with any number. One author attributes that figure to those blessed by Jesus in the Gospels. You guessed it, 153! Marks gets three, Matthew ups it to forty-seven, Luke wins the door prize with ninety-four and John brings up the rear with a mere nine. “Whew, that’s settled, let’s get on to something else.”

That’s too easy and it’s boring. There’s no mystery when a mystery is solved. The mystery of life is carefully held like a priceless china cup. Meaning and purpose are what propels our lives toward God’s purpose. There’s nothing “reasonable” about our crazy actual/faith life. Many say the reason is to bring us back to God. I disagree. I say it’s all about walking together in the mystery of life, with each other (the Body of Christ), which then leads us to back to God. Sound reasonable to you?


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Weddings & Music

Music. The notes and melodies that influences or confirms how our culture lives in a paticular time. Whether it’s Frank Sinatra or The Beatles, music so very often speaks of love as “all or nothing.” “My life will end if you leave me.” “Without you, I am nothing.” (So much for personal development.)

In 1965, Glen Campbell sang…(facing the women in the bridal party)
“She looks in the mirror and stares at the wrinkles, That weren’t there yesterday, And thinks of the young man that she almost married, What would he think if he saw her this way? She picks up her apron in little girl-fashion, As something comes into her mind, Slowly starts dancing remembering her girlhood, And all of the boys she had waiting in line Oh, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife, You see everywhere any time of the day, An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me.”

Ohhhh, to be a married man during those glorious years. Wait! Genesis says that the two shall be one. A mutual union that is blessed, affirmed and unbreakable by God. As Christ is united to the Church, so man and woman are united.

Now, let’s go back to 1963 when Jack Jones made a major hit out of…
(facing the men in the bridal party, I asked one of the men if he heard of Jack Jones and he said, “No!” I told him to Google him after the reception.)
“Hey, little girl, Comb your hair, fix your make-up, Soon he will open the door, Don’t think because, There’s a ring on your finger, You needn’t try any more. For wives should always be lovers, too..Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you. I’m warning you, Day after day, There are girls at the office, And men will always be men, Don’t send him off, With your hair still in curlers, You may not see him again. Hey, little girl, Better wear something pretty, Something you’d wear to go to the city, And dim all the lights, Pour the wine, start the music, Time to get ready for love.”

St. Paul says, “honor each other in every respect.”

Marriage is sacred union. It is not a battle and doesn’t care itself for hair cullers or a pretty dress but that elusive but venerable word: love – mutual (one more time, mutual) in sharing…believing in each other…trusting each other and the worst of all, those careful risks taken each day to know each other a little bit better. “Those careful risks…” They are found not only in this sacrament but in all seven. It’s during my priesthood (believe me), in our baptism and confirmation with our sometimes battles with God, in the confessional (the last place any of us wish to be but need to be), in the Eucharist when we say our “Yes” not to our own, selfish whims but to the glorious whims of our Creator. And the Anointing of the Sick, destroying the bridge between earth and heaven.

Let’s turn now to that great philosopher and theologian, Stephen Sondheim (actually a Broadway composer) and his musical messages, this April 27. At this time. In this holy place. A date and time only your future husband with faithfully forget – each year. With family and friends as witnesses, together with our combined prayers and support for them for the rest of their lives, please listen to these lasting, enduring musical lyrics for their future life together.

“Somebody, hold me too close, Somebody, hurt me too deep,  Somebody, sit in my chair And ruin my sleep, And make me aware, Of being alive, Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much, Somebody, know me too well,  Somebody, pull me up short, And put me through hell, And give me support, For being alive, Make me alive.

Make me confused, Mock me with praise, Let me be used, Vary my days. But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love, Somebody, force me to care, Somebody, make me come through, I’ll always be there, As frightened as you, To help us survive, Being alive, Being alive, Being alive!


“Marry me a little, Love me just enough, Cry, but not too often,
Play, but not too rough Keep a tender distance, So we’ll both be free
That’s the way it ought to be, I’m ready!

Marry me a little, Do it with a will, Make a few demands, I’m able to fulfill
Want me more than others, Not exclusively, That’s the way it ought to be
I’m ready! I’m ready now!

You can be my best friend, I can be your right arm
We’ll go through a fight or two—
No harm, no harm, We’ll look not too deep, We’ll go not too far
We won’t have to give up a thing, We’ll stay who we are

Marry me a little, Love me just enough
Warm and sweet and easy, Just the simple stuff
Keep a tender distance, So we’ll both be free
That’s the way it ought to be
I’m ready!

Marry me a little, Body, heart, and soul
Passionate as hell, But always in control
Want me first and foremost, Keep me company
That’s the way it ought to be
I’m ready! I’m ready now!

Oh, how gently we’ll talk, Oh, how softly we’ll tread
All the stings, The ugly things, We’ll keep unsaid
We’ll build a cocoon, Of love and respect
You promise whatever you like
I’ll never collect

Okay, then
I’m ready
I’m ready now
I’m ready!”


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April’s Easter & Weather

Easter Joy to all of you. You wouldn’t think that joy needs an adjective. Joy seems to stand proudly on its own.

April, snow. Snow, April. There’s two words that don’t go together. We Wisconsinites seem to plan our days around the weather. Or the weather appears to plan our days; conscious or unconscious. You wake up to sunshine and tend to treat others that way all day – “nice shoes” and “I like your smile.” You wake up to gloom and your unexpected mood suddenly becomes predictable, “Hurry up” to the cashier,” and a swear word to that slow driver on Capitol Drive.

Wisconsinites are a peculiarly, optimistic people. “Nice day today,” you say to your friend. She responds, “Yeah, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.”

So, about all of this, I wrote a letter to God.

“Dear God of All Seasons,

We know You’re out there, somewhere; we just can’t seem to find You. You don’t seem to live in Wisconsin.
Come, fill us with Your light and warmth. You tempted us sometimes with double the normal temperatures one day but not the next. Please, don’t tease us. We know that You are our light and our warmth. In You we reside and rely. Just share some of that great warmth with us Wisconsin folks, please? (For heaven’s sakes, we put our shovels away for the season.) I find that people are nicer and more welcoming when pleasant weather abounds. It sounds sad to say it that way but, I guess it’s true. I admit it even about myself.
Lord, I want my attitude, my disposition, my words and deeds to be reflective of Your unconditional love for us. And not be weather dependent, whatever the weather may be.
Your son showed us how his body and blood can determine and affect our moods and behaviors. That’s the temperature we want for both ourselves and those we encounter each day.
After all, You’ve told us that we’re Your barometer in this world.  We control the temperature when gossip begins, when tempers flair and when anger or frustration become easy solutions.  We are Your barometer in this broken, fragmented, cool and cloudy world of ours.
So God, “weather” it’s rain, snow, sunshine or slush, be our warmth. Be our sun. Be our warming weather. With Your help, in Wisconsin may the weather always be, (no, within our hearts may it always be) 68 degrees, mostly sunny with a 20% chance of rain in the morning and then clear skies throughout the afternoon and evening.
Love, Your Badger state friends

PS. Perhaps joy needs that adjective after all – ‘Easter’s’ joy, all year ‘round.”

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Lent & Easter Combined

the_shadow_knows_by_e_mannAl Jolson was wrong when he wrote and sang, “And when it’s twelve o’clock, we climb the stair, we never knock, for nobody’s there…just me…” After the resurrection, Easter healings began and the sick were placed outside “so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.” (Acts)

It’s the extension of you when the sun is bright. You’re unable to step on it or run around it. It remains illuminated, even if in darker colors. The impressions we make or receive are like a shadow. Those sick hope that even a shade of Peter can cure their aliment. Now, that’s Easter hope!

“Make a good first impression,” mom tells you before your first job interview. A “lasting impression” is always hoped to be in life’s positive column. You turn around, and it looks back at you. (If you don’t see yours then you may wish to grab a mirror and hope your breath appears.) Lent’s forty days gives way to forty more of Christ’s remaining. Lent’s introspection leads to Easter’s expression. “No shadow of a doubt,” your lawyer tells the jurors. Funerals sadly say that “life is but a fleeting shadow that does not endure” leading toward eternal life.

During these forty, now glorious, days of death’s defeat, can our shadow reflect who we are – both to ourselves and each other? “For nobody’s there” is simply inaccurate. We make our mark on others whether in the grocery or communion line. “Shadow” is also used for the unknown parts of us that are very much a part of us.

Pray that as Orson Welles said in his mellifluous voice, “The Shadow Knows,” our shadow can make complete our Lent and Easter experiences.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln


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Golf’s Redemption

TigerWoodsOct2011Do you blame your guardian angel for not guarding you enough? Or, in the case of golf, is it your caddie? Or do you just throw your clubs (religion) away? Do you cheat – there’s always an excuse in both sports and in life. Do you whine? (It’s the priest’s fault, not mine.)

What if, as Thomas Friedman writes in The New York Times, you say two words to your guardian angel, I mean caddie: “Watch this. And then they pull off a remarkable shot that winds through the trees, over the hill and past the sand trap, avoids the pond on the left and lands right in the middle of the putting green.” Tiger Woods’ 11th hole.

Religion and golf. I don’t follow sports but any movie about sports, I never miss. “The Legend of Beggar Vance,” “41,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Hoosiers.” I’ve seen them all more than once. Now there’s “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner, a wonderful movie.

Religion calls for a union of “body, mind and spirt,” a worthy, fitting tribute from the created to the Creator. Augusta’s “perilous 16th hole, where he launched his ball on the perfect arc over the water, softly curbing right to left with the terrain and then landing the precise two-foot-diameter circle so that it would then roll 20 feet down the slope and stop 15 inches below the hole.” Golf’s union is “geography, geometry, physics, and psychology all working together in perfect unison.”

Speaking of union, Presidents Trump and Obama finally found agreement, both twittered Tiger with admiration. “One small step for mankind,” anyone?

From early success to a growing arrogance to snobby hubris to forced humiliation (is there any other kind?), to multiple back surgeries, philanderer (what a nice word for a stupid gigolo), divorce, DUI, addiction to painkillers, spine fusion and redemption at 43 years old. (Midlife changes people!)

Finally, life’s circle. His dad hugs him after his last victory and Sunday Tiger, the dad, hugged his two children complete with a green sportcoat for each weekday.

“Body, mind and spirit” is the Church’s recipe for not a win but for honoring  our Creator. And, it’s a good idea to have a birdie in your back pocket on judgment day. Just in case.


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Palm Sunday

Palm_sunday-2013-wallpaperOur holiest of days next week is like the unholiest of a family’s yearly obligatory, optional dinner gathering.  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.

There’s the talkative aunt, thrice married and now dating. There’s that prodigal son with his now, new fourth investment venture that “Can’t miss”. There’s the quiet mother preparing supper and listening to the stories of others, no one asking her 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 watching all the excitement around him. Jokes are told that have been told every year. Conversations rise louder in equal proportion to the alcohol. Dad’s tired from his day’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, 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 around the fire asking Peter to declare a faith he has yet to own. Then there’s that guy with clean hands ignoring responsibility and setting Anthony Quinn free. And, how about that unbelieving guy with a sword at the end of our story who becomes a believer? Of course, our drama would not be complete without the guy who proudly accepts thirty pieces when he could have easily gotten fifty. (Lacking in belief and poor in business.) Like those jokes from relatives, we hear words we only hear once a year – Kidron valley, scabbard, Caiaphas, praetoriam, tethered, Stone Pavement, and the worst of all, but the most beautiful 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 and wave them away in the parking lot. Next week we get to gather together again that biblical family for a renewing adventure – but it is no longer their adventure in faith; theirs’  is done, but it is ours, our very own faith adventure; within this exact time and within this very place.

(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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Precision vs. Emotion?

clipart-music-notes-music-notes-clip-art“Oil and Water.” Can’t happen. Opposites don’t attract. Like-minded people are just that.
Wait! What if it’s the precision of music and the emotions of the heart? Oil and Water? Forget about it.

“Sussudio,” Phil Collins…”Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” Beatles
“Na Na Hay, H
ey Goodbye,” Steam
“Hot Diggity (dog biggity boom),” Perry Como

Monophony, heterophony, polyphony, homophony

“Splish, Splash, I Was Taking A Bath,” Bobbie Darin…”Chim Chim Cher-ee,” Dick Van Dyke
“Supercalifragilisticexplialidocious,” Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke
“Heebie Jeebies,” Louis Armstrong…”Sh-Boom,” Crew Cuts

“Emotion is often entertained with mood, temperament, personality, disposition and motivation.” Wikipedia
Oil is filled with precision, accuracy, perfectly fitted together. Water is fluid, constantly changing, and unpredictable.

“You’re the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly,” Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn
“Thank God and Greyhound (She’s Gone),” Roy Clark…”If You Don’t Believe I Love You, Just Ask My Wife,” Gary P. Nunn…”All I Want From You (Is Away),” Loretta Lynn

“In the early 20th century, Tin Pan Alley songs and Broadway musical songs were often in AABA 32 bar forms, in which the A sections repeated the same eight bar melody and the B section provide a contrasting melody and/or harmony for 8 bars. From the 1960’s onward, Western pop and rock songs are often verse-chorus form, which is based around a sequence of verse and chorus sections, with new lyrics for most verses and repeating lyrics for the choruses.” Wikipedia

Sectional, Strophic, Binary Ternary, Rando, Variational, Developmental Forms

“In-A-Gadda_Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly…”Chika Boom,” Guy Mitchell
“La La – Means I Love You,” The Delfonics
“Mama, Look at Bubu,” Harry Belafonte…”Oh, Oh Child,” Five Stairsteps

Cognitive – evaluation of events and objects that can either be rigidly held for years, totally ignored and just passing through the mind.
Bodily – physiological experience of the precise structure and rigidity of musical composition.
Action – “motivational for the preparation and direction of motor responses.” Wikipedia (Again, an unpredictable response to a predictable construction.)
Expression – emotional states are almost always accompanied by facial or vocal expression. (As in singing in the shower.)
Feelings – the subjective experience (you), stimulated by an objective/subjective composition (the composer).

If the Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me, Jimmy Buffett…How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life,” Fred Astaire, Jane Powell

“The conclusion or outro of a song is a way of ending or completing the song. It signals to the listeners that the song is nearing its close. By using an outro, the songwriter signals that the song is, in fact, nearing its end. This gives the listens a good sense of a closure. For DJ’s, the outro is a signal that they need to be ready to mix in their next song.” Wikipedia

Finally, there’s that silly, nonsensical “Symphony No. 9” in D minor by a minor composer, Ludwig van Beethoven; something about joy.

Emotion: Joy, Precision: Structure = Total Enjoyment


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“Living the Mystery”

Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” (Gospel of St. John)

Jesus-and-woman(whispering) I have a secret to tell you. “Publisher Clearing House” gave me their winning numbers. If you have a pen handy, you may wish to…

If anyone begins a sentence saying, “I have a secret to tell you,” please kindly smile and quickly walk away. If you tell a secret then it is no longer a secret. And I love it when they end by telling you, “Please don’t tell anyone.” When they just did.

Secret is our word but the churchy word is “mystery.” I even say it every time I have Mass, “The mystery of our faith.”

Unknown, undecided, unresolved, unsettled, unsure, unascertained. Sound like your life? Here’s some more, “riddle, enigma, conundrum.” And, if you’re into mystery stories, “Whodunit?”

“Why am I still alive?” asks the eighty-nine old as though “Father” has the answer. “What’s my major?” ponders the twenty-year old after a parental investment of over $180,000 in tuition.

Jesus writes not once but twice in the sand of the adulterous woman with how many outstretched arms tightly holding their-soon-to-released stones.

There are many guesses about what Jesus wrote if you look online but none are answers. That’s what makes it so beautiful and so full of faith. I don’t care what Jesus wrote back then. He wrote it for them. If it was about forgiveness then it’s still a message for me as well but it remains unknown; or that churchy word, “mystery.”

As Lent draws to a close, try to define what the words “faith” and “trust” mean to you. If you can even half-heartedly answer them then you have immersed yourself into this wonderful world of mystery.

“Living the mystery, not solving it”

My new answer when people ask me, “How are you doing?” is to say, “I’ll tell you tomorrow.” Because tomorrow I’ll know more about the yesterday that I lived. That’s living the mystery, not solving it.

Your son is arrested for drugs and your daughter changes religion. The immediate question you ask both of them is, “Why?” Wrong question. Always, through your conversations uncover the “Who” question. “Who are you?” It sounds psychological, and it is, but it is also the full of the faith stuff. It is the most asked question of Jesus and he never answered them. His life is a mystery to be unfolded as much as the bread and wine we take today that becomes Him, so we may be a little more like him.

Asking ourselves the “Why” question is the most convenient question due to its laziness. It’s an endless circular cycle of blaming everything and everyone other than…who? The “Who” question simply asks in any immediate situation, “Who are you?” “Who have you become” and “Who do you wish to become?” I think that’s called creation and recreation – and examined during every Lent of our lives.

Faith and trust. Two bold words that lead us deeper into the mystery of our lives. Always understanding a little more closely our lives and the life in God. The “Who” of our lives is absolutely a personal journey but it is each time honored and celebrated as family, as a community of faith. Who transforms the bread and wine into the Body of Christ? We all do. My hand is not a magic wand. It is the feeble, struggling and sometime successful efforts of our collective faith and trust that empowers me to give you the Bread of Life.

The “Why” and “Who” thing should be reversed. When you unearth your “Who,” you may receive glimpses of your “Why;” of what you’ve done to life and what life’s done to you. I deliberately used the verb “unearth” because this is spiritual stuff, folks. It is each of us and it is always more than us.

What did Jesus write in the sand? Great question for trivia games but very lame for living our lives. What does Jesus write in the sandbox of your life? How can Jesus stop you from asking about the “Why’s” and lay bare before you the “Who’s” of who we each are. Now we’re talking and sincerely living mystery.

(Whispering) Now, if you have your pens ready the winning numbers are…but don’t tell anyone.


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“God’s Crazy Love,” formerly “Prodigal Son”

Jesus takes out his violin and does a “Henny Youngman” impression to strongly convey to us the crazy love that God has for us. I know you’re not supposed to laugh during a gospel reading but there are plenty of opportunities. All the parentheses are laugh tracks.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.
What! No Mom, Divorced, Deceased?
The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’
There is no share for the youngest since all the property legally goes to the eldest.
So he divided his property between them.
Dad’s first loving mistake, or is it?
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country
Two miles away, just to be safe.
and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
Never defined, but don’t forget this part.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country,
A politican of either stripe.
and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
Pigs! Jewish! Together? (Pause for laughter.) And, he’s still waiting to be waited on.
When he came to his senses,
Hunger has a way of doing that.
he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
It’s only been two days…but still.
I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
“Practice makes perfect.” Practice your speech again and again. Now try it in front of a mirror no matter how unconvincing you are.
So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Dad doesn’t wait for him to complete his contrived speech. Was he truly sorry?
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
Well, okay, he got part of it out, but still.
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf
“And no pig!”
and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Dad ignores hearing about his “wild living” and its unknown details and does what only a Loving God and insightful dad would do.
Here’s the cool part of the story, that I love.
the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.
A  Donna Summer mix with a bit of Mariah Cariah.
So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.
These two kids only move when necessary.
So his father went out and pleaded with him.
Dad, again, initiates the contact.
But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
If he, indeed, has any friends!
But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes
Stop reading! “Prostitutes!” Who said anything about the ‘ladies of the night’ in this story? Where’s his mind?
comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
Dad’s thinking, “Yada, yada, yada…you boys sure like to talk about yourselves a lot. Just get it out and let’s move on.”
“‘My son,’
You dumb turkey.
the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
Minus half!
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

And so ends one of the greatest stories of God’s limitless wisdom, forgiveness and hope coupled with our foolish and whimsical self-imposed errors. God’s undying love, like a father’s devotion, far outweighs our thoughtless and dopey sins. Cue the rock group, “Queen’s” song, “Crazy Little Called Love.”

Jesus tells us a joke about a a serious matter. The last joke is the title of this parable. “The Prodigal Son” for centuries has been mis-titled. The son is not the subject, he’s a character as we all are in this life’s journey. God is the star and author of this parable. It ought to be rightly titled, “God Crazy Love for All of Us.”

Are we able to laugh all the way to God’s forgiveness and reunion?

index Enjoy Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”



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Lent: Sin or Hope? It’s Both?

keeping-a-holy-lentFinally, we can stop singing, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful” and begin singing the old Lesley Gore song, “Sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and everything…”

I guess it’s planned that way – begin Lent in darkness and concludes with rays of light. Sin/Hope, the two staples of all of our lives. I always feel sorry for those folks who live in Arizona or Florida. Lent begins and ends attending Mass wearing shorts and golf shoes. Midwest folks know the transition because we can both feel it in our bones and in our souls. Weather is full of awe for us as is our faith. But it’s not rules and regulations that gathers us each week but the wonder that is found in the Trinity and the Blessed Mother.

Confession and contrition is not the braunschweiger sandwich we ate that Friday in Lent, but it’s the twenty-one-year-old who says, “Been that, done that,” or “Same old, same old.” That apathy applies to eighty-one years old as well.

A burning bush that does not burn out. Its flame continues because it did not originate or end with us. I have a friend who needs a gas valve to ignite his family’s fireplace on a cold or damp night. It sounds trite, but God’s given us this marvelous gift of life to be breathed and shared with others. I remember an Alexian Village resident who told me that he’s lost more friends than he has now. His fire is slowly extinguishes. There is no fruit growing on his tree. I’d love to hear a confession, not about that braunschweiger sandwich but admitting that someone’s lost their path in life. The awe of God escapes them, for whatever reason. Isn’t that the expression, “Burned out?” A priest friend told me about that expression, “He may want to light the candle first in order for it to go out.” Awe surrounds us each day which can only connect us to the awe of God. The cowboy who shyly says to his girlfriend with his legs twitching each other, “Aw, shucks Mame.” That’s the awe of God. That’s a burning bush burning brightly that nothing in this life ever can water down.

It’s the awe of a cancer patient who loves and lives life as best she can. She dies at forty-two but writes a book, published posthumously to her two young daughters whom she will never see graduate from grade school, get married or to hug her grandchildren. That’s awe. She uses one of my favorite words, “juxtaposition.” It’s between the two supposed absolutes in this conflicted life of ours (which really isn’t that conflicted). “Two things placed closely together with contrasting effect,” says the dictionary. You want a definition of God’s awe? Here are hers.

To her daughters she wrote, “You will understand that nothing lasts forever, no pain, or joy. You will understand that joy cannot exist without sadness. Relief cannot exist without pain. Compassion cannot exist without cruelty. Courage cannot exist without fear. Hope cannot exist without despair. Wisdom cannot exist without suffering. Gratitude cannot exist without desperation. Paradoxes abound in this life. The living is an exercise in navigating within them.”

As these sunlit days now lengthen, how can you hit a home run with our Lenten journey? How can you respond to this great faith of ours in your thoughts, words and especially in your deeds? Let’s slide into home plate and encounter ever more deeply the love God has for us and the awe that draws us to God. As Billy Joel rightly sang, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” but it is definitely our job to keep that God-created fire burning.


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