Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Just Plain Sad (This one is a little edgy. You may need to adjust the volume.) We attended Mass this past Sunday at a packed church in NJ, and just three or four pews ahead of us sat a distraction of biblical proportions. Now most of the time, I actually close my eyes during the Mass. It's just me. I guess it helps me focus on the readings, that rich prelude of God-breathed human words that tick off in our missalettes until the Massive Explosion of Divine Love comes in the words of the Consecration; the Eucharist! "BEHOLD THE LAMB! Look up!" But when we settled into our pew and I saw this, I couldn't get it out of my mind. There was a man in front of us, with his spouse and two small children. He wore a t-shirt, and on the back of it, in massive bold letters were the words "Will Sell Wife For Beer." Now.... there are tacky t-shirts out there. They grow exponentially tackier as the environment around us increases in the number of persons (like one more than the person wearing it). But this was beyond tacky. This was just sad. Its message was the antithesis of everything surrounding it; the church, the scripture readings, the Sacrifice of Christ for His Bride the Church in the Eucharist, and how about his wife and family? I can't think of a more inappropriate message, and to broadcast it on your back in big bold letters? Was it funny? I thought it was pathetic. "Awww, come on! It's just a t-shirt. He doesn't mean it. At least he's in church." Oh there it is - the dreaded "At Least" - the bare minimum of belief that is crippling the Church. No doubt, I'm glad he was there, standing beside his wife and children. What a powerful message to send his young son... that a man is one who prays, who sings, who receives His Lord and King at the Altar like a knight preparing for his daily battles. But what a confusing counter-message on his back: "Will Sell Wife for Beer" ... What do his children think when they read it? Now some may say I'm being really judgemental right now. I should just pay attention to the altar and ignore the flock surrounding it. But sometimes it's absolutely necessary to make judgements. It's not a sin to decide when one thing is wrong and one is right; to discern prayerfully that this thing is a good and this t-shirt should be used to polish furniture. Now I'll be the first to say I've got a loooooong way to go in conforming my life to Christ. But I know I must conform my life to Christ. I know it means a life of harmony between my interior and exterior lives, so each should mirror the other. Not that I need to have JESUS SAVES in bold letters on all of my shirts, but He must be the seamless garment beneath everything I wear. Standing there in church, I thought about my wife. I prayed that I would sooner sell myself into slavery than have her come to harm. That's what it's about, that's my daily prayer: that I learn to lay down my life for her, every day. I think this is the great challenge facing men today. The challenge of putting ourselves at the service of our spouses. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her," says St. Paul in Ephesians 5. And how did Christ give Himself up for His Bride? He died for Her, He took the bullet for Her. He opened wide His arms on the Cross and died for Love. Let's get that on a t-shirt.
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