Blessed High High Feast/Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe.
I went to a vigil Mass last night (preceded by Confession and then what I’d hoped would be an hour of prayer but what was actually the guy two pews ahead looking at his phone for an hour (okay but why not stay in your car?) and another guy audibly intoning the Rosary (or something, thereby making peace or recollection of any kind impossible).
During Mass, there was absolutely zero visible enthusiasm or life from either the priest or the parishioners on this momentous occasion: the last Sunday before Advent begins; a day when we are especially called to recognize and rejoice over our BELOVED SAVIOR WHO RULES O’ER HEAVEN AND EARTH!!!!
HORRIBLE hymns the tune of which no-one could follow (though no-one hardly would have sung anyway). Horrible responsorial antiphon. All I could think was–And I think no-one recognizes ME? Imagine Christ, on this, one of Very Special Days…the world, including his own followers (including of course me), passing him by…
Every time I look at Christ on the Cross lately, I think of my late friend Dennis, of whom I’ve written before. Dennis was shot in a convenience store holdup at the age of 18, rendered a paraplegic, and lived the next 55 or so years in a wheelchair. All that time, his spine was basically deteriorating, so he was in constant, chronic pain.
They never caught the guy who shot him. I once asked Dennis, “How do you feel about that? Are you resentful?”
He said, “Nah. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, and I was doing what I was supposed ot be doing that day. I can’t afford resentment. My body’s shit, so I HAVE to keep my spirit in halfway decent shape.”
Or as someone else once said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Like Jesus nailed to the Cross, Dennis couldn’t get away from the many people who besieged him: wanted to seek his counsel, longed for a kind word, just wanted to touch his hand because he was a champion who ran his course and everyone who ever met him could see it, and bowed before it.
He couldn’t get away either from people who wanted to tell him long, boring stories, or talk trash about someone, or pour out their self-pity. At the 12-step meetings where I saw him, he had his special corner and it’s not like he couldn’t navigate his chair–he drove himself to the clubhouse–but he would just sit there patiently with a welcoming smile and a wisecrack and after the meeting kind of hold court. When he was ready to go, he’d cry, “Step aside, minions!” crack up laughing, and zip out.
But he was nailed to the cross of his chair.
Christ is like that, too, except he’s also nailed in place when people come to spit on him and throw stones and jeer and spew hatred.
And when he walks about among us, no-one hardly notices or recognizes him. I’ve thought of that lately, too, in these days of early winter when I always feel especially keenly the exile and loneliness of the human condition.
Especially living and working by myself, I’m always eager for a nod of recognition, the merest smile, a tiny act of courtesy–the person on the sidewalk who steps aside with their dog, or thanks you for stepping aside. I’m alert to people’s faces, to their personhood, to the (of course unvoiced) fact that Hey we’re both alive! Breathing! Walking! Look at that huge Western sky! How about those clouds! Look, the Christmas lights are coming on already!
But 90% of the time–nothing. Oblivious. Apparently even to say Hi now marks you out as an insane person, to be shunned and avoided. Hi? you can hear the person thinking. Go back to the asylum, Granny. What the f is WRONG with you??
What I’ve been thinking is-Isn’t that exactly the way we are with Christ? He too walks about with a little spark of hope, thirsting for connection, eager to respond to the slightest invitation, ready and willing to meet us so much more than halfway! Knock and the door shall be opened, seek and ye shall find. And we’re scurrying along thinking, Should I buy the dark chocolate or the milk? IS Alex Murdaugh guilty? Isn’t that Kari Lake vile?
Like us, in other words, Christ gets looked at either when we need something from him or when we want to blame him for something. And the rest of time he’s ignored.
In my Ignatian Exercises, whenever I feel conflicted or frightened (i.e. all the time) or bewildered or attacked, I’m being encouraged to think of Christ in a similar situation and ask him: What was that like for you?
Last time I spoke to my spiritual director, I was saying I didn’t think I felt equal to some task or other (probalby just living another day). I didn’t feel equal to my little mission on earth
She paused for a second, then asked: Do you think Jesus felt equal to his?