Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Are Deathbed Conversions Real?

Many people experience what are called “deathbed conversions.” That is, after a lifetime of not being a believer in God, they sincerely turn to the Lord in faith right at the end of their earthly life. 

Some people might say these deathbed conversions don’t really count. After all, if a person lives the vast majority of his life as a sinful, unrepentant pagan, can a brief change of heart just before death wipe out all that bad stuff? It would be like a baseball player going the whole season hitting .150, and then during the last game of the year he finally hits a home run. OK, that one homer was nice, but overall, the season was a disaster.
Well, someone who would say deathbed conversions do in fact count is Jesus. He made it very clear in the Gospels that it’s never too late to turn to God. When the Lord told the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15), He said, “I tell you…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

Jesus really hammered this point home with the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20). Jesus set the stage by explaining, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.”

Jesus then describes how some workers were hired first thing in the morning with the promise of being paid the standard daily wage. Throughout the day the owner continued to hire people and put them to work, including some guys who were hired at 5 p.m. and worked only one hour.

When the workday was over, the landowner started paying the laborers, beginning with the men who were hired last. Surprisingly, they were paid a full day’s wages. This caused the men who were hired in the morning to assume they would be paid more, since they toiled in the vineyard all day long. However, the landowner also gave them the standard daily wage.
Naturally, these workers became angry. They complained to the landowner, “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and heat.”

The landowner replied, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?”

Then Jesus summarized this parable by saying, “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The message of this parable is clear: those who sincerely seek to enter the kingdom of heaven, even when time is about to run out, will be welcomed with open arms. It doesn’t matter if a person lived his entire life as a sinful, unrepentant pagan, if he turns to God on his deathbed and sincerely repents and asks for mercy, God will grant it because He is indeed generous with the gift of salvation.

By the way, this does not mean it’s perfectly OK to live sinful lives and plan to turn to God on our deathbeds. Sometimes there is no deathbed. A sudden car crash, heart attack, stroke, or stray bullet can prevent us from having the opportunity to repent at the last minute. So, please don’t take that chance!
Anyway, the point is: deathbed conversions are real, and all Heaven rejoices when a precious soul turns to God in faith, even if it’s with his or her last breath. There is always hope, even for someone who seems completely alienated from God right now.

The other important point is this: despite the fact that last minute conversions are wonderful, don’t plan to conclude your earthly life that way. It’s too risky. Turn to the Lord now, even if it means you’ll have to make some major changes in your life. You’ll never regret it!

Sunday, May 28, 2023

How Are My Typos? Great!

Recently, I met a client for lunch. Later that day I typed an email to him, which began, “It was great when we met for lunch today.” Before sending the email, I reread it quickly and discovered what I actually typed was, “I was great when we met for lunch today.”

Hmm, that sends a completely different message, doesn’t it? Now, in thinking back, I suppose I was pretty good at lunch, but not necessarily great. And even if I was great, that’s not the kind of thing a person proclaims, unless he is an out-of-control braggart.

I do tend to type a lot faster than I should, which produces a fair amount of typos. (For example, for the last word in the previous sentence, I typed “tipos,” “tyops,” and “tpyos” before I finally got it right.)
Luckily I caught the typo in the email to my client, so I was able to fix it before sending it out, which means he does not think I’m an out-of-control braggart. Instead, he thinks I’m someone who spends way too much time during business meetings talking about baseball. Oh well, guilty as charged.

Anyway, I started to think about all the emails I’ve hastily typed over the years, and I began to wonder whether I’ve ever sent out the message, “I was great,” when I meant to say, “It was great.” My email program allows me to search for particular phrases, and when I searched my Sent folder for the phrase, “I was great,” it came back with seven matches. I looked at each of those email messages, and sure enough they were supposed to be some form of, “It was great when we got together,” but I typed, “I was great when we got together.” Wow, that is embarrassing. (And some of those meetings were very long ago, so I can’t remember if I was indeed great. Since I’m not an out-of-control braggart, I will admit that during a few of those meetings, I might’ve been only slightly above average.)

Obviously, I’m typing way too quickly and carelessly, which also happen to be the two words that best describe the way I proofread my emails before sending. The only good thing is that the clients I sent those emails to are just as busy as I am, so they probably read my email notes quickly and carelessly also, and never even noticed my seemingly braggadocious declaration. (Braggadocious Declaration. Hmm, that would be a good name for a rock band.)
It is a bit distressing to discover that a silly typo changed the entire meaning of an email message. Do you know that feeling when your face flushes and the ol’ adrenaline surge of doom spreads through your neck and chest, as your brain comprehends your mistake and the fact it’s too late to stop it? That feeling happens with me when I realize I accidentally hit “Reply All” rather than “Reply,” or when I make a very snarky comment right after hanging up the phone, and then realize I never actually hung up. Yeah, that “adrenaline surge of doom” is not a pleasant feeling. (Although that phrase, too, would make a good name for a rock band.)

Making mistakes while typing words in an email can be frustrating. But it’s nothing compared to making mistakes while typing NUMBERS in an email, specifically when giving a quotation to a potential customer. Typing “$4,250” when you meant to type “$44,250” can be a big problem. 

The last time I made a quotation blunder of that magnitude was not a fun day. There was no reason to braggadociously declare, “I was great today.” Just ask the owner of our company. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Pentecost Sunday and the Holy Spirit 

This Sunday is the feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the birthday of the Church. On the first Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ Resurrection, The Holy Spirit came upon the small, frightened band of believers in a spectacular and powerful way. We hear about this amazing event in the first reading at Mass, from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. 

While gathered together indoors, the disciples were startled by “a noise like a strong driving wind” that filled the entire house. Then tongues of fire appeared, “which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” If that wasn’t incredible enough, the Holy Spirit then filled each of the disciples, giving them the power to speak in many different languages. They went outside and began to proclaim the message of the Gospel to a diverse, multi-ethnic crowd. 
The crowd was astounded, and asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?” 

The display of power by the Holy Spirit is certainly spectacular, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Back on the night of the Last Supper, about two months earlier, Jesus promised that the Father would send the Spirit to the disciples. He said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” A bit later Jesus explained, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.” 

Since the Holy Spirit came from Heaven, promised by Jesus and sent by the Father, it would have been surprising only if His arrival was NOT spectacular. The supernatural power of Heaven is extremely potent. We can learn how truly powerful the Holy Spirit is by reading the rest of the Acts of the Apostles. The book is the story of the early church’s struggles to grow and spread the Good News. In chapter after chapter, it is the Holy Spirit who gives the believers the power to do amazing things: travel to distant lands, stand boldly in the courts of kings and rulers, endure persecution and hardship — and all-the-while gathering precious souls into the kingdom of God. There’s no way they could have accomplished what they did without the power of the Holy Spirit to guide them. 

Nowadays many people assume the spectacular power displayed by the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts was only for that time in history. The thinking goes that after waiting a gazillion years to make His appearance, the Holy Spirit came and empowered the early disciples in a special way. Then when enough Christian communities were established a few decades later, He went back to Heaven for another prolonged vacation. 
The fact is, the Holy Spirit is still present and active in the lives of believers. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul made it clear that a person cannot even be a follower of Jesus unless the Holy Spirit is present in his or her life. While discussing the ongoing battle we all face between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the spirit, Paul wrote, “But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (emphasis added). 

To be genuine disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit must dwell inside our hearts. If He is not there — guiding us and empowering us to righteous living — then we do not belong to Christ.

However, with many people these days, even faithful believers, the power of the Holy Spirit lies dormant. He is just waiting there patiently, hoping we will ask Him to empower us.

With that in mind, I am inviting you to join me at a “Life in the Spirit Seminar,” which will be held at St. Gregory Church’s CCD Center, at 1043 Stafford Ave.,  Bristol, CT, this Saturday, May 27th. The Seminar begins at 9 am and ends at 3 pm. At the Seminar we learn about the power of the Holy Spirit, and pray for a release of His power in our lives.
I’ve attended Life in the Spirit Seminars over the years, but none recently, which is why I’m so excited about this one. The Seminar is fun, informative, friendly, faithful, and fun. (Did I mention that it’s fun?) Also, there are rumors that the Merry Catholic fella will be giving one of the presentations. 

Please prayerfully consider joining us. I can’t think of anything more exciting on the day before Pentecost than a Life in the Spirit Seminar. It just may be the spiritual boost we all need. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

How Many Subscriptions Are Too Many?

Recently, I saw a news article on the Internet with this title: “People Are Sick and Tired of All Their Subscriptions.”

I shouted out loud, “Yes! We certainly ARE sick and tired of all our subscriptions!” 

What a coincidence. Just the night before, I was talking with my wife about all the automatic charges my credit card gets whacked with every month. Each and every one of those products or services I’ve subscribed to over the years seemed fairly minor at the time, but all those $5 and $12 and $23 per month charges really add up.
So, I started reading the first couple of sentences of the online article, and then a little window popped up and said if I wanted to continue reading, I must become a Wall Street Journal subscriber. Ugh! Yet another subscription, and this time so I can finish reading an article about why people are sick and tired of subscriptions! 

Talk about irony. The whole situation cracked me up so much, I just had to…. 

Ha, I bet you thought I was about to say that I just had to subscribe. Well, I might have in the past, but instead I went into a co-worker’s office, someone who already subscribes to the WSJ online, and I read the article on his computer.

Anyway, the article explained that when people were stuck at home during the Covid pandemic, they subscribed to all kinds of things, such as streaming video channels, satellite radio, music downloads, Amazon Prime, online exercise programs, gaming websites, news services, Spam of the Month Club, etc. But now that inflation is eating into everybody’s monthly budget, folks are realizing that they can live without a lot of those extraneous expenses.
The article explained that a survey asked Americans to estimate how much they spend each month on subscriptions. The average guess was $86 per month. However, when all the charges were added up, the actual total was almost $220 per month. Wow, I know a dollar today is not worth what it used to be, but that’s a whole bunch of dollars being frittered away every 30 days.

If I had to guess how much I’m paying each month for all the various subscriptions and memberships I’ve signed up for, I’d say it’s around $100. But now I’m a little nervous to go through all my records and add it up. I’m afraid it might turn out that I’ve been wasting the equivalent of a car payment each month. (And that’s not counting the biggest subscription scam of all: cable TV. Hexfinity alone is a BMW payment.)

Now, I just have to decide which subscriptions to cancel. Well, I can’t get rid of my Major League Baseball app, of course, since it lets me watch every game on my phone or iPad. And it’s really not that expensive. How about AppleTV+? No, too many good shows. And it’s really not that expensive. Maybe I should dump my Disney+ Bundle streaming service. Oh, but I can’t. It’s got all the Star Wars shows — old and new — plus the whole Marvel Universe of movies and ESPN documentaries, not to mention everything Disney ever produced. And it’s really not that expensive.
Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here. Each individual service I subscribe to is not very expensive — in and of itself. And each one does offer something enjoyable. After all, I wouldn’t have signed up in the first place if that weren’t so. But do I really need them? Can I live without them?

Well, before I make any rash decisions, I should check with an expert. Good thing I signed up for a personal financial advice subscription, only $49.95 per month. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo

One of the most famous images from one of the most famous art masterpieces is “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. God and Adam are reaching out to one another, their fingers barely an inch apart. This painting is so famous, it’s been the subject of countless parodies. Do a Google search for “God Adam Sistine Chapel meme,” and you’ll see what I mean.
The traditional description of Michelangelo’s painting is that God is shown creating Mankind, and He is about to infuse His spirit into the first man, Adam. You can almost sense that an electric spark is about to occur as their fingers draw nearer to each other.

In the painting, God is reaching out, fully extended, to touch Adam. At the same time, Adam is kind of lounging on his side with his left arm raised, but he is not really reaching out. His wrist is hanging limp and his forefinger is angled downward. Maybe Michelangelo was trying to tell us that Adam didn’t have the strength to fully extend himself, since the spark of God’s spirit had not yet entered him.

There’s another way we can interpret this painting. Yes, the painting is called Creazione di Adamo (The Creation of Adam), but it also could symbolize the way mankind interacts with God long after the original creation occurred.

Look at the painting closely. God is reaching way out, almost straining, to touch the man. But the man is impassive, not straining at all. It’s almost as if the man acknowledges God, and wants to get somewhat close to the Almighty, but not too close.
Doesn’t this describe so many of us? We believe that God exists and that He is the creator of the Universe. We know that we ought to be in a loving relationship with God, but we also prefer to keep that relationship at arm’s length. Why? Because if we get too close to God, we might have to change the way we live our lives. That would force us to leave our comfort zones. And if there is anything modern Americans cherish above all else, it is our comfort zones.

“I really should pray when I wake up in the morning — but I’d rather check my email.” “I really should get dressed and go to Mass — but I’m in the middle of watching a good movie on Netflix.” “I really should make time to read the Bible — but these TikTok videos are so funny.”

Can anybody relate to those comments?

In the late 19th century, Francis Thompson published an epic poem called “The Hound of Heaven.” It’s a tale of God’s relentless pursuit of a man’s soul, just as a hound relentlessly pursues its prey.

We know God is loving and merciful, but we often assume this means God is passive. He just sits back and waits for us to come to Him. But God’s love is a passionate love. He wants us to be in a loving relationship with Him, which is the sole reason He created us in the first place. 

We may often act like Adam in the Sistine Chapel painting: lounging, indifferent, barely making an effort to acknowledge God, kind of hoping He doesn’t get too close and disturb our comfort zone. But God is not passive. He reaches out for us, straining, lunging, almost desperate to touch our hearts and souls. Why? Because of His infinite love for us.

We really have to work hard to ignore the Lord. His beautiful creation is overwhelming, but we often shrug our shoulders and say, “Meh, cosmic accident.” The love a parent has for a child is breath-taking — and a mere shadow of the love God has for us — but we say, “Um, evolution, or whatever,” and don’t give it any further thought. 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Can We Live with Only One Bathroom?

My wife and I are thinking about moving to the eastern part of the state. We’ve been scouring the real estate websites, and during the last month or so we’ve visited and toured a number of potential new homes. By the way, have you ever noticed that when someone uses the phrase “...a number of…”, it pretty much has no meaning? For example, if a person says, “I was accepted by a number of Ivy League colleges,” it means they were accepted by anywhere from zero to eight Ivy League colleges. (Because if I remember correctly when I attended a non-Ivy League college, they taught us that zero is a number.)
So, when I say my wife and I visited a number of potential new homes, it could mean we visited zero, or it could mean we visited and toured, say, 14,000 places. The actual number is much closer to zero (but not actually zero). However, the whole process is so exhausting, it feels like it is much closer to 14,000. 

We visited one place in a rural town that was very intriguing. It’s a brand new complex and the units are gorgeous. The last time I moved into a brand new home, I was three years old, and I really wasn’t paying close attention at the time. Every other place I’ve lived, and every other house my wife and I have purchased during the past four decades, was definitely not new. Each place had previous occupants, sometimes many, and each place had a number of maintenance issues that needed to be dealt with. (In this case, when I say “...a number of maintenance issues…”, I do not mean zero. With the very first house we ever bought, back in 1984, the number of maintenance issues was much closer to 14,000.)  

The brand new place we toured has one significant drawback: it only has one bathroom. Now, I know for a fact that I can live in a place with only one bathroom. After all, I did it the whole time I was growing up. That brand new house I moved into when I was three was a tiny three-bedroom ranch with no basement or attic, and it had only one bathroom. By the time my two younger brothers came along, there were a total of seven of us living in that small house with that one bathroom. And we got along just fine. Of course, there were times when my brothers and I had to visit the wooded area right behind our house. Let’s just say that after a while, the bark on some of those trees had an odd yellowish hue. 
However, despite the impressive adaptability I displayed as a youth, the fact is, for the last 30-plus years, we have lived in homes with multiple bathrooms. And I kind of suspect that one of the keys to a long and happy marriage is having separate bathrooms. I’m not sure if we’re ready to go back to the arrangement we had in numerous apartments when we first got married. (By the way, the word “numerous” never means zero.)

My wife says it could work if I agree to make one significant change: I can no longer bring my smartphone into the bathroom with me. After all, it’s a bathroom, not an internet cafe where you spend 30 minutes catching up on all the latest news.

I’m not sure this arrangement will work out, because I suspect there might be a number of times when I forget all about the “no smartphone” rule. In this case, the phrase “...a number of…” is much closer to 14,000. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Be Careful What You Wish For 

Occasionally, I hear some of my Christian friends say something like, “I wish God would perform a miracle right before my eyes. Maybe send an angel to appear and talk to me, like what happened to people in the Bible. If that happened to me, then my faith would not be so weak and I’d believe in God with a new passion.”

I must admit, I occasionally think along those lines, too. When my faith life is dry and barren, and it seems the natural, secular world is dominating my thoughts and actions, it would be nice to be reminded of God’s power and majesty in a startling and unforgettable way. After all, if an angel suddenly appeared and talked to me, that would remove all doubts about 1) whether a supernatural dimension to reality really existed, and 2) whether I should focus my attention on the spiritual world much more often than I do.
But is that really what we want to happen? Do any of us really want to have an angel appear and start talking with us?

Don’t forget, every time that scenario occurred in the Bible, the people to whom the angel appeared were terrified. And when it was over, usually they were not all that thrilled about what the angel told them to do.

If an angel appeared to one of us, or if some heavenly, miraculous event occurred just for us, what would be the first thing we would have to do? That’s right, we’d have to tell others about it and spread the news that God had worked a miracle in our lives. How exactly will most of our family, friends, and coworkers respond to our breathless (borderline hysterical) proclamation? Right, again. They would think we’re crazy.

I can only speak for myself, but I much prefer that people, especially the ones I see on a regular basis, think of me as somewhat sane. If I witnessed a spectacular miracle or if an angel appeared and spoke to me, I would have to say good-bye to the days of being considered level-headed and normal. Maybe a few people would believe my story, but most of the people I’ve known for years would conclude that I had lost my mind.
I do believe in God, and I do want to serve Him, but I also strongly desire that my family and friends do not think that I am off my rocker. If God chose me to witness a stunning miracle, I’d have to get used to people referring to me as Wacko Willie.

There’s another aspect to this scenario that is also unpleasant to consider. If any of us were to have an angel appear and speak to us, we would be required to change our lives drastically. Every time an angel appeared to someone in Scripture, it was not to say, “Hey, how ya doing?” and then disappear. Nope, every time an angel appeared, it was to command that person to do something completely different with their lives.

For example, when an angel appeared to Mary, she was told that she would give birth to a child, even though she had never been with a man. When an angel appeared to Joseph, he was told to marry the pregnant Mary, even though he was not the father. A while later, an angel told Joseph to pack up quickly and move to Egypt.
If an angel appeared to me, I can’t even imagine what he’d tell me to do, but I’m sure it would be something I have no desire to do.

So, people who hope to see a miracle or have an angel speak to them, thinking it will boost their faith life, should be careful what they wish for. If that occurred to one of us, here is what would happen: First, most of the people we know will be convinced we’re looney tunes. Second, we’ll be compelled by the miraculous vision to drop everything and embark on a completely different way of life. (Which, by the way, will be another reason our friends will think we’re bonkers.)

It is possible to have a strong faith life without witnessing a supernatural miracle. Those of us who occasionally wish for something like that to happen should be thankful that God loves us so much He would never burden us like that. Probably. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Public Guttermouths Are Bleepin’ Annoying

I’m trying really hard not to be cranky these days, but the passage of time is making it difficult to maintain my cherub-like demeanor. Something else has been grinding my gears lately, which isn’t helping. It really bugs me when people have loud and foul-mouthed conversations in public, well within the hearing range of total strangers. 

I freely admit my coworkers would be the first to raise an eyebrow and say, “Uh, Bill, isn’t it a little hypocritical for you to complain about profanity?”

The answer is: No, it’s not hypocritical, even though I’ve been known to drop the occasional “Frank” or “Shirley” bomb during excitable office conversations. The reason it’s not hypocritical is because I never talk that way in front of people who are, or who may be, offended by that kind of language.
By the way, I am not at all trying to justify crude and coarse language. I get it that being a guttermouth, even in private, is not very classy. If I can avoid using those words when someone within earshot would be offended, then it’s obvious I can control it. In other words, those words do not fly out of my mouth against my will. I choose to use them and I’m not particularly proud of that fact.

However, the point here is not whether I occasionally engage in foul-mouthed conversations — I do — the point is, I try to be aware of my surroundings and avoid saying anything that would make total strangers uncomfortable. Which is more that I can say for a lot of other people I’ve heard out in public recently.

The first time I was really aware of this phenomenon was a couple of years ago when I attended a Mets game in New York. It was an afternoon game, and there were lots of kids in attendance. That’s when I noticed that many guys in their 20s and 30s were laughing and shouting and carrying on, and every other word blasting from their faces were very loud “Frank” and “Molly-Franker” bombs. I felt really uncomfortable for the kids and their parents.
Then, I noticed that many of the parents were “Frank” bomb artists also, along with a few of the kids. So, I figured, “Well, this is New York. In this town, nuns and Kindergarten teachers talk like Joe Pesci in ‘Goodfellas,’ so this isn’t representative of what happens in civilized parts of the country.”

The most recent episode occurred, of all places, in the YMCA locker room at 6:30 in the morning. Among the early morning swim and exercise crew at the Y, I’m one of the youngest, so we’re way more wrinkled than raucous. It’s more like a bunch of geezers reluctantly breaking a sweat in the hope of adding a couple extra years to our lives. 

Out of nowhere, two guys began a loud conversation about a story that was in the news at that time: a dentist allegedly murdered his wife by poisoning her. One of the guys started pontificating loudly about other methods of wife-murder that, in his opinion, would not be discovered by the police. In the process, he dropped dozens of “Frank” bombs and basically described all women as being such, um, rhymes with witches, that it’s really a shame there are laws against killing them. His conversation certainly livened up the usually quiet locker room.
I’m not the confrontational type, so I didn’t say anything (except a quick prayer for his wife, assuming he hasn’t already buried her in the backyard). 

There’s no doubt folks have become more and more foul-mouthed in public. And the only thing I can say is, “What the Frank is wrong with these people?!” 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

No Mow May: Philanthropy or Lethargy?

The other day I drove by a house with a small sign out front that said: “NO MOW MAY.” In smaller print it said, “Pardon the weeds — We’re feeding the bees.”

I immediately thought: What a brilliant concept! For almost four decades we owned homes that needed to have the lawn mowed every week — sometimes twice per week during rainy periods. All those years I desperately tried to think of excuses to avoid mowing. I knew the neighbors would freak out if I just let the lawn run wild and turn into a weedy mess. So, I grudgingly went out there week after week and mowed.
If only I had realized that I could’ve played the “saving the environment” card! I would have been able to spend Saturday afternoons snoozing on the couch rather than pushing a noisy mower back and forth in the yard.

I had never heard of “No Mow May,” so at first I assumed this particular homeowner just made it up to keep his neighbors from complaining when he went all month without mowing the lawn. But it turns out “No Mow May” is a real thing. 

“No Mow May” began in 2019 in Great Britain, when a group of scientists proposed that people should let the weeds in their lawns grow and bloom. The idea was that overgrown lawns would produce essential pollen for bees, which were just emerging from hibernation. 

After that first year in the U.K., researchers claimed the massive increase in floral diversity was very beneficial to bees, at a time when they needed it most. The researchers also reported a fivefold increase in the number of bees in no-mow lawns compared with other yards that were mowed as usual. They did not offer any statistics about plummeting home prices in the now-seedy neighborhoods, nor how many people got stung by bees.

The following year, residents of Appleton, Wisconsin, organized their own No Mow May. Since then, No Mow May has been described as a “movement” with a “life of its own.” Every year supporters flood social media with passionate hype about how much they are doing (or not doing?) to save the planet. 
Well, that could be true. Or… maybe it’s just a bunch of guys who don’t want to mow the lawn, who stumbled onto a brilliant way to cloak their laziness as environmental philanthropy. 

A different news article noted that un-mowed lawns are also a breeding ground for ticks. I know the pollinating activity of bees is really good for the environment, but I’m not sure ticks offer any major benefit to the planet.

After I wrote the previous sentence, I checked online and discovered that ticks are in fact a crucial link in the food chain, and are a favorite food source for chickens and turkeys. Fine, but is it too much to ask that they stop spreading Lyme Disease and a dozen other nasty illnesses?

Anyway, I’m not sure what to think about No Mow May. It may be a wonderful thing for the environment, or it may be a bunch of dudes laughing all the way to the sports bar on a Saturday afternoon while their lawn mowers remain untouched inside the tool shed. 

Since we sold our house and moved into a condo a couple of years ago, lawn mowing thankfully is no longer a part of my life. However, if the landscaping firm responsible for the upkeep of our complex decides to skip the month of May, I’m certain it will have nothing to do with environmental philanthropy. And I will make my feelings known at the next Homeowners Association meeting. Especially if I get stung by a bee. 

Saint Socrates Is a Comforting Concept

In the Gospel reading at Mass this weekend, we hear one of my favorite verses. In the 14th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus tells his followers: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, if Jesus was a mere man and not divine, this is one of His many statements that indicates He either was a liar — a deceiver who knew the truth about himself but claimed to be God anyway to fool his gullible followers — or a lunatic — a psychologically disturbed man who really thought he was God but actually was not. There’s no middle ground. If you say Jesus was good and wise, then His statement this week must be true, and that means He is God. If He was not God, that is, if He was a mere mortal with severely elevated self-esteem, then the things He said about Himself were simply off the charts into La-La Land. 
This is one of my favorite Bible verses because it’s so blunt and to the point. I’m a big fan of clear and plain statements, as I often completely miss the point with subtle, nuanced, allegorical teachings. Put it this way: if I had been one of Jesus’ apostles, I would’ve turned to Peter or John at least 10 times each day and asked, “What was THAT supposed to mean?!” Especially when Jesus was on a roll telling parables.

Even though I like this blunt statement from John’s gospel, a lot of people do not like it at all. Jesus doesn’t really leave any room for other paths, or other faith traditions, or other religions, does He? The Lord frankly says that He, and He alone, is the one, true path to the Father and eternal life in Heaven.

Boy, oh boy, does that make people angry, especially in our current culture, which is steeped in relativism and the idea that “whatever is true for you is true.” Making a blunt declaration that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ is the height of intolerance.

However, there is another way to look at this. Jesus indeed says that He alone is the way, truth, and life. But maybe He’s not being quite as narrow as it seems at first glance. If Jesus is the Truth — the true Truth, with a capital “T” — then anyone who sincerely seeks the truth is seeking Jesus, although he or she might not realize it.

Brilliant author and professor Peter Kreeft says that he has no problem using the term “Saint Socrates,” because that ancient Greek philosopher (who lived centuries before the time Jesus walked the earth), always sought the truth. Kreeft speculates that in seeking the truth, Socrates was seeking Jesus, but just didn’t know it at the time. When he died and his soul stood before the throne of God, Socrates might have exclaimed, “Ah, there you are! I’ve been searching for you my whole life, but I just didn’t know your name until now.”
In my mind, this view is quite feasible, knowing what we know about God’s nature and personality. After all, He is a God of mercy and forgiveness. He does not take delight in seeing souls lost for all eternity. He wants each and every one of us to enter into the joy of Heaven. In other words, if God were a school teacher, He would be grading our final exam on a HUGE curve.

The idea that someone who sincerely seeks the truth is actually seeking Jesus without realizing it, is the one concept that keeps me from despair. That’s because I now have so many friends and relatives who are ex-Catholics, I can’t even count that high. 

As long as they sincerely seek the truth, there is still hope. Lot’s of hope, in fact, because besides being a God of mercy and forgiveness, our Lord is the God of hope.

Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Anyone who seeks the truth will one day discover that the truth has a name, the name above every other name: Jesus.