Archive for April, 2017

Little white car with New York plates

My wife had discovered that members or not, we were welcome to use the child play area at one of the nearby mega-churches.  It’s important to note that it is a so-called mega-church because the size of the parking lot would rival Wally World (yes, from National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation).  And, on a Tuesday morning, there is nary a car to be found amongst the what?, thousand, parking places.

After an hour or so, romping around, it was time to go home.

Keeping in mind that nearly-two-year-olds require their own, individual car seats installed in the backseat of our family-economy size SUV, I was able to open the back door on the passenger side all the way in order to deadlift Twin #1/#2 out of the stroller and into her (his?) seat.  Strapped in, door closed.

However, it was without just a little consternation, as I pushed the double-wide stroller around to the driver’s side of the SUV, that I found a little white car had nearly parked me in.

While I certainly could not get the stroller near the door, by being very gentle, I could open the left-side back door, well, “into” the little white car’s side and squeeze Twin #2 into his (her?) seat.  Strapped in, door closed.  Stroller into back of SUV.

My turn.  Fat chance.

I had to open the driver’s door a little past “into” the little white car’s front bumper.  I mean I was gentle, but there was some pressure of my, well, face it: 16 year-old SUV door edge on the I’m sure it was plastic, right-front bumper of the Buick Encore.

Yeah, at that point, I could have walked around to the passenger side of my SUV, opened the front door and climbed across that seat and the console.  I could have; but I was past reasoning.  And this was before I looked around at the parking lot.

Did I mention that this was in a mega-parking lot?  And, on a Tuesday morning?  At a church?

Trust me when I say that with the exception of my car and the little white car from New York, there was not a single car within my ability to throw a baseball.  Yes, honestly, there were maybe half-a-dozen other cars that I could see – but none anywhere near close.  Must have been fifty or so empty stalls.  Maybe 75.

So, kiddies buckled in, I drove home.

Now, the old me would have been expanding my vocabulary about little white cars, or cars with New York license plates.  Neither characterization would have been fair of course, but my little bitty brain could not fathom why anyone would park that close to another car in an otherwise empty HUGE parking lot.  It wasn’t raining (that in itself is odd for Puget Sound).  There were a couple of spaces closer to the door.  It wasn’t like parking that close was going to prevent parking lot rash – in fact, sadly, it only encouraged a couple of little marks.

But, the new me?  Well, the new me was thanking the Good Lord for the opportunity.  Uh, huh, right.  No, really:

Some people complain that, if there was a GOD, there would be no disease, no war, no income tax, no little white cars.  The undeniable existence of all these “challenges” is de facto proof that if there is a GOD, then He certainly is not a nice guy.

I beg to differ.

If none of these bad things happened, and the world was all roses and rainbows, how would someone like me ever have a chance at salvation?  I’m not saying I would offer the driver of that little white car a free car wash or something; but it did give me the opportunity to consider that maybe that other driver has bigger problems than me.

And that other driver was not trying to be an ass.  Maybe it just comes naturally to people who drive little white cars.  From New York.  But, that’s the old me.

Really though, life can be pretty tough, and my life is a cake-walk compared to 90% of the folks out there just trying to find a safe place to sleep or the next meal.  Yeah, it is tougher if you’re stupid (thank you, John Wayne).  The lesson to be learned is: what are you going to do when life gives you lemons?  (Yeah, I love clichés, too.)

I have learned to appreciate the Church’s seasonal calendar.  We just finished Lent and are well into the Easter Season.  Every year, the seasons bring something new; either something I previously had never considered, or a greater richness and depth to something that was just rattling around in my cranium.

And this year, Easter brought this:  Christ died a horrific death, which means two things to me: One, a crucifixion is not what GOD needed, but what we need.  Anything less than a crucifixion just would not have gotten our attention.  In fact, most people still just don’t get it.  Two, He died and I don’t get a bye.  I will grant you that He does not expect me to volunteer to be nailed to a tree; but some of the other things He did, He did to set an example.  I know I just don’t get it.  I just don’t get how anyone can say Christ gave us all a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.  He opened the door, sure.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park.  It just might be more like a salmon swimming upstream (you just gotta see that spectacle to believe it).

It’s not that we are expected to suffer.  It is that we should expect to be tested.  And how we react to those tests makes a difference.  Not that we can possibly earn our way into Heaven.  Never more true than the saying that “there but for the grace of GOD go I.”  Point is, I am expected to do something.  What I do does matter.  Makes perfect sense to me.

It’s only Thursday

Something that I have noticed about myself is that, in recent years, I have made a deliberate attempt at making Lent meaningful.  Long ago, I stopped giving up chocolate for Lent (partly because it seemed so superficial, and partly because I really don’t eat much chocolate anyway – kind of like giving up smoking for someone who has never smoked).  Similarly, fast and abstinence have lost their meaning simply because food is not something I spend much time thinking about: I am very much of the “I eat to live” camp, and not at all of the “I live to eat” stripe.  Not eating meat on Friday?  So what?  I usually don’t anyway.

What I have felt is that trying to make Lent meaningful has indeed become a more fruitful period of preparation.  I spend more time in prayer.  I read more (I just this morning finished Fr Richard John Neuhaus’ “Death on a Friday Afternoon” – a good book anytime of the year, but especially appropriate during this time of year).

I woke up this morning thinking it was already Good Friday; then “it’s ‘only’ Thursday.”  Granted, a very special Thursday: the first day of the Triduum.  But, I very much want to spend even more time than I ever have focusing on Good Friday.  Exactly why is rather vague to me, except that it seems appropriate to do more than I ever have.

As one of those that carries a Rosary in my pocket, it is very easy for me to pray a Rosary.  Yes, there are specific Mysteries for designated days of the week; but I frequently find myself wanting to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries.  In a very strange way, I might say that the Sorrowful Mysteries are my “favorite”; so, I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on those.  And the first Sorrowful Mystery has always taken the bulk of my time.

Why did Jesus “weep” in the Garden?

At first, I thought it was the human Jesus that would have known the horrors of crucifixion – the Romans were famous for making examples of a few “miscreants” (their definition, of course), and it seems impossible to me that Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover some 30 times and never saw someone hanging from a “tree” in pain that can only be described as indescribable.  It must be the thought of going thru that kind of pain that caused His tears.

Then it was the thought of all those souls that somehow didn’t get it.  I am incredulous that anyone could have seen, talked to, eaten with, even been with Jesus for three years and still didn’t get it.  To say nothing of all those souls that weren’t even close to Jesus geographically (say, people in Rome).  As Neil Diamond might say “for being done too soon” (which I have mentioned in these pages before).  It must have been the frustration that caused His tears.

This past week, my thoughts shifted to the possibility that His tears were caused by His resistance to temptation.  To me, there is ample reason to spend time with this possibility.  While in the Garden, His three closest friends fell asleep – He had to wake them three times.  They succumbed to the temptation of thinking sleep was more important than being with their friend.  Maybe the dinner they had and all the excitement that must have been part of the Passover festivities was just too much for them?  Maybe they didn’t resist to the point of shedding blood?

Then, there is Jesus floating the idea in His prayers that maybe the whole Passion thing might not happen at all – maybe that cup would pass Him by.  What do you think about that, Abba?  Maybe the temptation to cut and run caused His tears?  I’m thinking the whole temptation thing is fairly likely.

And then, in the closing pages of Fr Neuhaus’ work, I learned of how utterly alone Jesus was.

Why am I Roman Catholic?  Well, first and foremost, I do believe I am called by GOD to be a member of the body of His One, True Church.  And second, more on the level of the worm that I am, I just believe that the interpretation of the Bible that the Roman Catholic Church offers is the best – the closest, the most true (to say nothing of the longest analysis – something approaching 500 years longer than any other group –  and the largest corpus of writings).

And in Fr Neuhaus’s book, he points out that GOD spoke (so that others heard) to Jesus twice: at His Baptism and at His Transfiguration.  However, at no time during His Passion, did GOD speak to Jesus.  Yeah!  That’s right.  GOD is silent when Jesus needed Him the most.

Jesus had His own “dark night of the soul” at the very end; others lived to tell about it (e.g., St John of the Cross’ “Ascent of Mt Carmel,” and “Dark Night of the Soul”).  In any event, was Jesus crying because He felt utterly, totally and absolutely alone?

Perhaps the answer is: “almost.”  As in 99%.  Because there was still something – however small – that moved Him to pray.  If He was 100% convinced He was alone, prayer would have been pointless.

I’m still working on “What Good Friday means to me.”  I’m no longer hung up on the very idea of calling the day We Crucified Our Lord, “good.”  Looking at the clock, I have something less than 23 hours to spend on Good Friday, then it’s on to Saturday.  I suppose that could be “Holy Saturday,” but sitting here, I am thinking it is more like “Empty Saturday.”

Again to borrow from Fr Neuhaus, I don’t want to rush thru Good Friday.  I want to spend time with the Guy-I-never-met, who died for me.  I’m old fashioned enough to believe I owe Him that much.