No Reason for Being Sad
“For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in his happiness.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 21)
Nearly late for Adoration in Baltimore’s Basilica, I dashed out of the Franklin Street garage when I briefly saw a security guard look in the opposite direction and shout the name of a man on the other side of Cathedral Street. In a hurry, I ignored her and kept on walking swiftly and with my mind full of all sorts of house-moving tasks, all on a sweltering summer day.
It was then that I heard the words I will never forget, from an older man crossing Cathedral Street. With a lanyard swinging his job badge back and forth while he walked toward the shouting woman working in the car garage, he looked at me and said with a slight grin, “I know it’s miserable out here, but that ain’t no reason for bein’ sad.”
Embarrassed, I still thought, “Thank you, God, I needed to hear that.” Apologetically, I told him on the street corner that I didn’t mean to look sad and praised the Lord. He smiled back with curled up shoulders. This man, in jeans and an old sweatshirt, knew the secret of living in love, living in joy.
My own father had once told me long ago to “be happy,” no matter the circumstances. Was the older man who crossed Cathedral Street that day an answer to a prayer of my dad now in Heaven? Could have been. At one time an enlisted serviceman in the U.S. Army fighting on the battlefields of Nazi Germany, my father chose to be happy come what may. He chose to love no matter how he was treated. Are these not traits forgotten today? Traits that we could all stand to learn again?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:16-24)
Do the fruits of the Spirit come easily? No. It’s been said before that we learn a lot about how to treat humans from watching and working with dogs. For years I have rescued older dogs and learned the most from my Labrador Retriever named Candy, who in her brief time on earth with me learned love. For months after I first got her, Candy wanted to remain on the other side of the room, probably hurt from past experiences with more than one person. And yet it was the smile of someone who loved her — like the older man who smiled at me crossing Cathedral Street this summer — who reminded her that she was loved and that it was all right to forget everything and love back.
Over the course of several months, I watched Candy learn how to love — to respond in love to being loved. Candy came to know that someone loved her and that she did not need to be afraid to revel in this world of love by giving and receiving. Although a human, for Candy I was like a parent who was always there, just as God was for my father — the person who made it easy for him to rest and just love. I think it is this recognition of a God who is a Father that can make us “walk by the Spirit” like the man crossing Cathedral Street, like a baby in a bouncer, free to have fun. More than my father, Candy taught me that love can be learned, enjoyed and practiced until made perfect.
Can we give this love freely? Sometimes I think as Christians we can be too involved in just having our own relationship with Christ when he wants us to share him with others who don’t know him. One thing I really love about doing Adoration at the Baltimore Basilica is that it is never about just “me and Jesus” — it always ends up involving at least praying for new people that I see on my way to the Basilica. Sometimes it means getting lost in a new but very run-down neighborhood and seeing such immense poverty on the many faces I drive by, that they go with me in prayer to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Or my trip to the Cathedral can involve waiting in a line of traffic and then quickly handing out bottles of water and granola bars through my car window to the homeless people passing all the cars.
These then are the people who go with me in prayer to our Eucharistic Lord. Or while praying in front of the monstrance, I can hear what seems to be an endless stream of sirens or the most horribly choreographed music coming from a car below. The people associated with these sounds are then the unnamed fellow human beings I take in prayer to Christ before me. I am blessed to know them just briefly and to be their messenger to God. He alone knows their futures.
And so again, thank you, God, for the older man crossing Cathedral Street this summer and for his most significant words to me! I hope we meet some day, at least in Heaven. In the meantime, yes, let’s smile together and love throughout the most unbelievable situations. We have a Father, who’s got it all in hand!