Saturday, May 20, 2017
LOVE AND SAFETY PINS
The gospel texts at mass this past week have been from Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John, Jesus’ discourses to his apostles at the last supper. I’ve always found John’s writings too abstract for me to connect with easily: “God is love,” “Remain in me as the Father remains in me and I in the Father.” This year, however, these passages finally begun to touch me.
Each morning my meditation has been about a different aspect of love. “My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him.” “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me”(Rev.3:20). “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” To make the text more personal, I asked myself who the people are whose love has made me able to “remain in Christ’s love” (at least to the extent that I do). I mentally filled the front two rows of seats in church with people whose love has shaped and continues to shape my life.
“I no longer call you servants, I call you friends” (Jn 15:15). Of all the holy men and women in the Old Testament, only one, Abraham, was ever called a “friend of God” (cf. Is 41:8, 2 Chron. 20:7), but here was Jesus calling me his close personal friend that morning. I sat with that one for half an hour.
Meditations like these this week have made me more aware of (and grateful to) the countless people in my life, past and present, near and far, cousins and colleagues and confreres, who have let me experience God’s love, and so made me able to pass that love on to others.
It’s been a good week that way.
On Thursday I came across the following prose-poem in a book, A Shimmer of Something, Lean Stories of Spiritual Substance, by Brian Doyle. As I read it, I felt that I was getting an insight into the way God loves and cares about each one of us. I think you might enjoy it.
On Pinning the Number 92 on My Son Before Basketball Tryouts
His back all tense and a dagger of sweat down the middle of his shirt like a blade. I try to cut the heat by saying man, ninety-two, what are you, a defensive tackle? But he’s not exactly in the mood which I can tell just from the tone of his silence. I fumble with the safety pins to make sure all four corners are tacked down tight. The last thing you need at tryouts is your number flapping in the wind like a geek. I get three pins in clean and fiddle around the last one a while on purpose because I am utterly overwhelmed and am trying not to kneel down in the echoing hallway And cry and bang my head on the icy concrete because I love this boy more than I Can ever tell you or explain even to myself and I so want him to do well and make The team but he might not and then I would have to give him the speech about how To mill pain into accomplishment, how to turn it on the lathe of your will and such, You know the speech, you got it from your dad, I got it from mine, every dad ever Has to give that speech eventually which stinks because it means every child ever Sooner or later feels the hot lick of disappointment and pain and embarrassment & Humiliation, the girl says no, your name’s not on the roster posted on the gym wall, You punt the test, you miss the shot, and this is not even to mention the major pain That comes for us all but in the best of worlds comes later in life and not when you Are a kid like this boy with my hand on his shoulder in the roiling hall by the gym. I click the last pin and cup his face in my hand and say dude, I love you, be quick, Be yourself, be relentless, and we touch fists and he runs off with the other players And I stand there shaking so bad one of the other dads looks at me apprehensively Like is he going to have to phone the emergency medical techs or what so I shuffle Outside into the wild wet air and try not to think about anything at all whatsoever But as usual I wonder why the very best thing is the one thing that hurts the worst.