Easter: An Empty Tomb?

thShe travels to where he is buried, to pay homage or weep we don’t know. She mistakens an angel for a gardener and discovers the tomb is empty. Stolen? Misplaced? Joseph of Arimathea still owed money on the tomb?

She runs back to tell the guys and, of course being guys, they don’t believe her until they run to find the tomb empty for themselves.

It’s empty. Not knowing as Paul Harvey would say “the rest of the story,” what kind of Easter message is that? An empty tomb?

If your life is presently empty then this Easter story attempts to provide you with a bit of Judy Garland’s, “Over the Rainbow.” It may not work but it’s still a pretty song.

If your life is presently content with lots of responsibilities and obligations then this “empty tomb” stuff is just another of the Church’s holy days. Or, is it?

Emptiness or fullness. Two extremes or is it somewhere in between?  The Easter message has a message for both camps. We can call it a “hole.”

Us feeling that “hole” of emptiness becoming wider with no bottom in sight and very little “rainbow” in its future for whatever circumstance caused that glaring “hole.” Us feeling life’s fullness has pending holes only to show themselves when the bottom breaks.

How can someone who’s experiencing emptiness fill that bottomless hole? How can someone feeling life’s fullness know (or care) about life’s holes?

It’s because it’s Easter. We may love the lilies and those hidden Easter eggs for the youngsters to uncover but the hidden resolutions to an adult’s life can be an Easter Hunt and a half.

Both those “empty” and those “full” folks need to focus on that empty tomb. Jesus was either taken or released. The Christian faith is durable enough to offer us that day for how many different responses.

Those feeling “empty” can slowly fill themselves up with a hopeful future of that slower slogan, “One step at a time.” Those feeling “full” can cherish their fullness but be careful where they walk.

Jesus’ tomb has been emptied because his ministry was completed. Yes, he’ll meet them numerous times over forty days but they’ll never recognize him until they eat.

The “Pass-Over” is all about food and Jesus is always hungry after leaving the tomb. Those empty can fill their holes with nourishing spiritual food and a bit of Garland thrown in and those feeling full can find assurance that if a hole does appear, there is a way out.

The Easter tomb is empty. Our lives began empty and we, daily, attempt to fill our lives with every good thing in order to share those good things, and ourselves, with others.

 

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Musings,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture
“Living Faith’s Mysteries,” reflection on the Christian seasons of
Advent, Christmas/Lent, Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture

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Easter Dinner Prayer

easter-egg“Easter’s Spring is a newness for everyone. Whether gainfully employed, unemploye or retired – something new awaits each of us.

Pagan or Believer, this day has an impact on us all. This is a seasonal change and a religious reversal. Spring leans into summer and doubt leaps toward hope.

For those employed, their old tasks bring a new perspective or a different twist. If they’re able to see it, there’s a morsel of change in each minute of their work day. For those unemployed (like me) it’s, “Oh, it’s 2:10; no, now it’s 2:11; wrong again, it’s 2:12 p.m.” That cocktail adage, “It’s 5:00 somewhere” now begins at 4.

Easter hope. Hope is such a fluid word but its substance can see behind a cancer diagnosis or a priest’s endless days with two loving cats who wonder to themselves, “Why-Is-He-Still-Here?”

A wish is for the Packers and Brewers but hope touches depths without words. Jesus didn’t wish for the good of people to emerge, he died for the hope part.

For those retired, well, you’re on your own good luck. I have no idea how they do it.

The food of transition we are about to receive is the bounty of the bounty Jesus freely offered to us. Unfortunately, Jesus was wrong at the end with his final words, “It is finished.” A shared meal is a transition time from the completion of the past day toward a hope-filled tomorrow of challenges and rewards.

It’s only finished when this meal is enjoyed and savored by all present. It’s only finished when we complete the gifts, talents, and treasures that God entrusted us with to make even the darkest of a winter’s night a spring’s hope.

Let’s eat.

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Holy Thursday: The Basics

(If I had a job, this would be my sermon tonight.)

jesus-breadJesus holds up a loaf of bread in front of his faithful, fearful followers and says loudly, “This is me. Take and eat it.”

The waiter approaches your table and asks, “Would you like to hear tonight’s specials?” “Sure, hit it,” we reply. “Well, we have a loaf of bread on a platter, slices of bread cut up into small pieces and our specialty is one piece of rye, toasted for that extra taste.” You’d leave the restaurant wondering what just happened.

It’s the second, third or fourth addition to a meal: bread. Bread is the extra that accompanies your plate’s meal. A little butter on it and you’re all set to enjoy your meal with a small piece of it on the edge of your plate.

Bread. Is it an after-thought or is it that assumed addition that completes any meal? The most basic of all foods is the one Jesus chooses to be himself. A more gifted preacher chose an entree as his(her)self because that way their importance would be the main course. In our U.S. culture bread is an afterthought, an “Oh, I almost forgot to put the… out,” statement.

Jesus holds up his glass of wine and announces to the those still wondering about the “bread thing” and says, “I am the wine.” “Now, your talking,” says the gadfly, bunch of fishermen, a tax collector, and the traitor. The wine of lifting spirits and saying things you wouldn’t say at work. That’s the power of wine.

Bread absorbs and wine exudes. Together they make for a wonderful meal. Jesus makes the two himself combining those two verbs into one. We need to absorb constantly in our wild culture of images and words and then release the best of us in our words and actions.

Jesus chose the basics to make them prominent. Jesus chose the essentials to make them essential.

Holy Thursday is about returning and retrieving life’s basics –  humbling service to others (washing feet?!), and those two lifted things that Jesus lifted up to become extraordinary: bread and wine.

Could that “bread and wine” be our lives? I wonder. Stay tuned because tomorrow is Good Friday and what’s so “good” about it?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Musings,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture
“Living Faith’s Mysteries,” reflection on the Christian seasons of
Advent, Christmas/Lent, Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture

Posted in Holy Week, Spirituality | Leave a comment

An Eight-Year-Old Yells “Glue!”

green-tree-hito the other kids when touching a tree or traffic pole. Everyone knows what that means.

Whatever game was being played on a warm summer night had this built-in safety that stopped all the action of the neighborhood kids’ game for that person. “Glue” meant that I’m now protected from all the follies that this night involved.

One hand around the tree or pole took you out of the action as long as your hand was around…”but what if it’s just my pinky finger on the tree or pole?” tempts the young one’s fate. Even pinky is respected by everyone because tree or pole contact remains.

“Release that pinky and see what happens,” I’m sure they were all thinking. If that were the case then the worst two words pronounced to an eight-year-old during game night would be, “You’re It!”

“Glue” was not a time-out as though you hurt your knee or needed a bathroom break. “Glue” was the real thing that stopped all the action for you, until that hand or pinky pulled away.

It’s 70 degrees outside on this April Sunday evening and I experienced once again what “Glue” meant or means. My family had a wonderful evening meal together and driving home fourteen feelings entered my mind (or was it eighteen?) I’m sitting on my front porch with my two cats wildly enjoying this unusually warm Wisconsin weather (there is no “Glue” for cats, by the way) and I’m feeling an eight-year-old’s “Glue” moment.

All that stuff is still there but I feel my pinky touching that tree and it lifted everything to where ever lifted things go. I know those feelings are still there but that young “Glue” feeling was recalled.

I don’t recall how we young people learned or knew about the “Glue” rule but it was a premonition for my life tonight.

Those youthful games did continue. How long can an eight-year-old hold on to something or anything? Tonight, as an aging but still eight-years-old, I somehow can’t leave this “Glue” place. It just feels like the right place to be – right in the middle of something that had a rich, enriching past that’s ended and an unknown, unnamed future.

The April trees are still barren but signs of buds are beginning to show and the moon is hazy but still visible.

I’m only giving up “Glue” because I need to go to the bathroom. (I’m not eight anymore.) But I want to remember that there (was) is a time and a place that knows no age or doubtful circumstance. I yelled it out silently for only me to hear and remember, “Glue.”

 

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Musings,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture
“Living Faith’s Mysteries,” reflection on the Christian seasons of
Advent, Christmas/Lent, Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,” reflections on the Catholic Church and American culture

Posted in Being Fired, Spirituality | 1 Comment

“The End?”

the-end-3We know there’s an ending as soon as it begins. Midway through we see the end coming. After a play’s intermission we know it’s about to happen because the second act is shorter than the first.

But the first act? Ahhh. Stumblingly and gloriously meeting unknown faces – soon to be friends, allies or “just those other people” who work there. Beginnings also contain surprising expectations that expect our immediate attention.

At your first meeting at that new job, it becomes clear to others that you don’t like meetings so that thought is stored away in their minds’ newly-minted-empty folder called, “The New Guy.”

I have a friend who reads the last page of a book’s first. Weird? Then he reads the entire book. OCD? Perhaps, but as he reads the book he’s now connected to its ending so the unfolding was only a mystery to the writer. At home, I’ll rewind and watch the end of a movie several times to make sure I’ve sewn up the plot’s resolutions as well as the leading man did. “But what about that other thing?” I say to myself when he solves it in one sentence. “I thought that thing was an important part of the movie?” I complain to my cat but the leading man gave me the ending; usually wrapping it up in sixty seconds or less.

“Ending.” There’s an ending because there’s a beginning. God’s creation saw to that. It’s not that God knows our endings but what is created now will soon become a “then.”  (Funeral directors will never say, “Thank you for your business” because they know you’ll return.)

“The End” is followed by what scrolls upwards as you try to read who else was in that movie you’ve just enjoyed. “The End” means the restaurant bill was paid and now it is, “Your place or mine?” “The End” is eighth-grade graduation when how many more years (and how many loans) burden in your future.

“‘The end’ will never come,” says a ninety-year-old with no living or final will. “She looks good to us,” we say to ourselves, “Hell, she looks eighty?” (As though eighty-years-old is young?!) Inside out thoughts, we wonder if she thinks she’ll be the first person to live on Mars.

“It can’t happen to me,” I tell myself because I’m valuable to the company and its philosophical philosophy. “Other folks, maybe, but not me,” when waking up in the morning knowing that my today might be my “ending” day.

“The Party’s Over,” “The fat lady’s sings,” “It’s the bottom of the ninth,” “The clock struck twelve,” “Thank you for coming,” “You’ve been a great audience,” “It became a pumpkin again.”

“Just a minute or two longer?” you say to whoever is above you but he only shows you silence. (I think they teach a class in that.)

It’s the “end,” with only its “befores” in front of you with little thought of its “afters” which then make you an “after.” The “befores” are cherished for a long, long time and the “afters” are now those longer days with no divisions of time.

Death has no ending in our Christian faith. This life was meant as a prelude to something greater and grandeur. Yet what can be more grandeur than still a loving family to hug off to sleep, a fireplace to ponder nothing and everything, a surprised sympathy call from a friend after hearing about your “ending,” or family and friends celebrating Ethel’s 89th year life ending, that empty, stupid chair that your husband loved, that song at your wedding, that moment on vacation when you met someone and laughed the night away but who remains nameless.

Does it all end or does that ending continue to live and breath in a life that’s still breathing. “Even in death, the deceased continue to live,” we all faithfully believe and want to feel.

“The End.”

Those two words are the movie’s way of concluding itself to get people out of the theater to clean up your lost popcorn. The movies that, both in film and real life, I watch again and again are the experiences and encounters of my life that I can relive again and again. And believe me, I do.

“The End.”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Musings”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”

Posted in Being Fired, Spirituality | 1 Comment

A Cat’s Sleeping Moment

sleeping_cat_clip_art_5960He jumps up on the top of the couch to feel the sun at mid-afternoon. He enjoys the warmth until a bird settles on the neighbor’s roof. Gawking sounds emit but to no avail. That cute bird is not about to be his.

His cleaning now begins as though his cleaning twenty minutes ago wasn’t sufficient. Cat cleaning takes quite a while. Every claw needs special attention. (It only takes me three minutes, and I have water!)

His waging tail leisurely tucks itself inside his hind legs and his front paw becomes a pillow for a slowly falling, weary head. (He just finished a nap one hour ago.) His eyes are wide open but you’re able to see its glassiness as though, as though…; there the head goes down, resting itself on the newly named pillow followed by a long sigh that would mean to us that someone died.

If bliss is not the word then I have no idea to better describe a cat’s sleep. Is he dreaming about lost mice and missed birds? Is he hoping that I find a job to continue feeding him? Does he ponder those large, deposited stools that I need to scoop out each night? A deep sleep envelopes him with a heavy breathing that gently relaxes. Any mother would envy a cat’s sleep with her three children in the next room, wondering about their future’s future.

A quick tick is heard and his eyes open widely before I hear the stupid, silly tick. Alert. Ready. Armed. He looks around and waits for another ticking sound. Doesn’t happen. The head and eyes both begin to lower themselves in harmony. (I should be so lucky with my 1:00 a.m. cigarette after going to bed at 11:00 p.m.) His head reclines with again those dreams “Of Mice and Birds?”

He’ll respite there until the need for affection awakens him. He’ll jump up on me and extend those cleaned claws into my shoulders and stare me in my face and I wonder what he’s thinking or is he thinking at all.

He warmly looks at me but he can’t smile because he’s a cat. But I can.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Musings”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”

Posted in cats, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Counties of the Holy Spirit

7-gifts-banner-copy-copyIt’s a state with counties familiar to us. The name may live within you, making it your “state of mind”.

The northern county in this state is called “Courage” for its brute strength, often vengeful whose county symbol is bulging biceps and tight thighs. Fortunately, “Patience” is the neighboring county which often smiles at Courage’s laws, practices and bar hours. Courage’s only reflection is the morning mirror.

“Fortitude” county is on the opposite side of the state and brags of her gentle persistence and a nod to her sister county, “Hope” which can live fancifully in your mind or can ennoble your faith. Fortitude passed a resolution inviting Courage residents to visit a china store and lift just one object, hold it and then return it to the shelve. Fortitude never heard back.

Below Fortitude is “Wisdom” county which is the state’s oldest and has the lowest unemployment rate. It’s not that Wisdom is that smart but it’s deeper than smart; experiences yield lessons, some small and others that enlarge life.

“Counsel” lies at the bottom of the state asking questions only to receive a new question, just like a rabbi would do. This forces Courage to either rephrase his question or ask a new, clearer one.

In the center of the state is “Understanding” which hasn’t had an easy time of it. Industry’s left and service jobs are now the offerings to its population. She wants to live up to her county’s name and holds out for a dialogue with all the counties.

Directly below Understanding lands “Knowledge,” the state’s second oldest county. Knowledge has so much of it that it appears the other counties are either jealous or just don’t care about history or its past or what he can teach the other counties. It’s a lonely county, mostly older folks sitting on storefront benches throwing dates back and forth to see who remembers the most.

The state’s tiniest county is “Piety,” it’s somewhere in the lower left of the state but I’m not sure of that. Folks there seem to gather in structures with a steeple on top. The “steeple” baffles Courage county because a flat roof would have been cheaper. Neighbors hear singing throughout the day, especially on Sundays. Why Sunday? I’m don’t know because that’s the perfect day to sleep-in with a Bloody Mary at (or for!) lunch.

Oh, I forgot to mention the name of the state. It’s called “Awe.” Folks throughout the state constantly wonder what they’re “awing” about or for but Awe is their name.

I wonder if those counties could have a state (or “state of mind”) meeting. Is that asking too much?

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Soulful Musings”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”

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The Blind See & Others Don’t Listen

Based on this Lenten Reading

valentine_love_is_blindA Hollywood story involves the legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock and one of his favorite leading ladies, Grace Kelly.

Kelly had turned down the chance to star alongside Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront to play opposite Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s 1954 suspense classic, Rear Window. (Eva Saint Marie replaced Kelly.) Kelly and Hitchcock got along famously. But Kelly later recalled in an interview, a minor snag developed on the set regarding Kelly’s wardrobe.

She said, “At the rehearsal for the scene in Rear Window when I wore a sheer nightgown, Hitchcock called for [costume designer] Edith Head. He came over here and said, ‘Look, the bosom is not right, we’re going to have to put something in there.’ He was very sweet about it; he didn’t want to upset me, so he spoke quietly to Edith. We went into my dressing room and Edith said, ‘Mr. Hitchcock is worried because there’s a false pleat here. He wants me to put in falsies.’

“‘Well,” I said, ‘You can’t put falsies in this, it’s going to show—and I’m not going to wear them.’” And she said, ‘What are we going to do?’ So we quickly took it up here, made some adjustments there, and I just did what I could and stood as straight as possible — without falsies. When I walked out onto the set Hitchcock looked at me and at Edith and said, ‘See what a difference they make?’”

All too often we see and hear what we want to hear and see. (And, aren’t we’re always right!)

The gospel is about sin but the solution of sin is what?

The root of sin is about tainted eyes that don’t see clearly and lots of wasted words on wax-ladened ears that can no longer hear. (If I was an Alexian Village today, I’d have fun talking about poor eyesight and deafness.)

When you and I are having a serious conversation especially a political one; while you’re still speaking I’m working on my response. (I do that all the time.) Or while I’m composing my reply in my head, you say something at the end that I agree with. (Now what do I say?!)

Are our eyes wide open to see our differences and seek a common vision? Are these two organs on both sides of our noses wide enough to clearly see God’s message in action, a message that’s often hidden but staring us both into our eyes? (And, God’s message may be completely different than our differing, petty, personal views!)

Are those appendages we call ears on both sides of our faces open enough to hear
—a child’s plea
—the unheard feelings behind her heard sentences
—that “inner voice” that says we’re wrong but we do it anyway
—the whisperings of someone’s grief even when there’s nothing you can do about it but     offer up a silent prayer
—that annoyingly noisy silence in the evening which invites personal reflection but we try to escape it through television, alcohol/drugs, some stupid video game, or telling the world on Facebook what we did today

“Wide Open” our eyes and ears need to be throughout the year but especially sensitive to them during Lent.

The youngest of Papa Jesse’s lot, chosen to be the King of Israel: (is not the smartest or oldest nor the one who raised her hand the most in grade school) was David:  “ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance.” For all of David’s profound sinfulness he eventually found redemption by listening more and seeing better the greatness of God, God’s immense forgiveness, David’s place within God’s Kingdom and how David could make that Kingdom real here and now – in his personal life, in his profession, among his friends and reinforced in his thoughts and expressed through his deeds.

Well during this sacred six weeks of Lent and throughout the year; from this man standing before you today: “ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance” to all of you –
—keep rubbing those eyes searching for the eyes of God
—and keep cleaning out that wax because God is truly speaking and listening along with us.

books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Soulful Musings”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
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Transition?

changeOne of my cats is captured by the bright light of my laptop as I write this and as the cloudy sunset captures mine. (It’s Wisconsin, what can I say? We have lots of “cloudy sun!”)

The experts call it a “transition,” what a nice work to use instead of saying, “You’re in a hole, a deep hole” that doesn’t appear to have a ladder. This is the “in betweens” I’ve loved to write about but this “between” is a bit too pinching when it happened to me.

“Why look to the forward when you haven’t finished the past,” I read somewhere. I wonder what change she was going through and if she “finished” her past.

“Finishing.” No idea what that means. If corporate standards abruptly finished me, my “finishing” is now my forced task? What is there to finish when the finishing was finished for me in one, long sentence with no feeling or appreciation for the many “finishings” I furnished for many years for older adults. (Funerals)

“Give yourself time,” is a comforting reminder from friends when time is all I have to give myself. Time for what? I’m getting pretty good at staring at something for no reason. I click out of it and find something else to stare down. (My apartment has never been cleaner and I promised myself to do laundry three weeks ago. “Tomorrow, tomorrow!”)

The soft word “transition” reminds me when garbage collectors became “sanitary engineers” as though they attended MIT and a secretary became an executive assistant. This is not a “transition” for me because the past would then meld with the present. This period is one-sided: focused purely on the past and what happened.

When I find a new position, then I can use the word “transition” but until then I’m in a hole with lots and lots of time surrounding me.

My other cat is sound asleep in the other room. I think that’s the cat capturing the dream of my next step.

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Unemployed Time

clock“I can do that in two days, Friday,” I say to myself and five seconds later realize that tomorrow is Friday. I laugh to myself and then a few tears fall.

Tomorrow is Friday. Three words that escape someone who has nothing but time on his hands. Maybe that’s my problem; time is on “my” hands but not in my mind.

I now write down the few things I need to do for each day of the following week. Being unemployed, it amazes me how my day flies (wrong!) by but there is usually two events I need to tend to.

Today, (I now know that today is Thursday, by the way) I took my cat for his yearly shots and that spent thirty minutes of my scheduled day which began at 9:30 am which I thought was early for me to rise these days. Waiting for his 2:00 pm appointment, I received a call needing information about my forthcoming 65th birthday and becoming a medical ward of the government. (Trump would love me.) That erased another thirty minutes from my day. Answering her questions was easy – it was all details of my life which I could easily answer even though I thought today was Wednesday. (Does anyone, ever, forget his/her Social Security number!)

I return my confused-traveling cat to my confusing, humble dwelling and wonder if he’s worth $105.00 for three shots when money has suddenly become an issue in my life. (“There’s still two days left in this deodorant!”)

Knowing it’s Thursday doesn’t change my unemployed situation because it could also be Tuesday, but that would screw up my weekly calendar.

Tomorrow is Friday and I have two events both lunch and dinner so I don’t need to remind myself to eat. Friendly folks have done that for me on Friday.

But soon it’ll be Saturday’s food that I’m worried about. Or is it Sunday’s that I’m concerned about.

Oh my gosh! Just look at the time?

books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Soulful Musings”
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
Posted in Being Fired, Spirituality | Tagged | Leave a comment