The Jesus Cloud

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Do you ever wish that you could believe in the Jesus of your childhood imagination, and that what you believed about Him then was and still is the literal truth about who He is and what He does? When I was a kid, a panorama like this one would evoke excitement and fear that at any moment He might appear through the heavens in that golden light of daybreak, and the power of His loving presence would dispel sadness, suffering, and every kind of evil.  I don’t think those fantasies were odd for a Catholic kid in those days. After all, the nuns had taught us that Our Lady of Fatima did appear to three children. But I outgrew my young faith early on.  Living in Brooklyn and in the pathology of my family of origin nudged me away from fantasies and into a quest instead for what’s true; what’s real. Christ was not going to appear in the skies and rescue us from my parent’s alcoholism and my father from bipolar disorder any more than He would bring the homeless woman we kids called “Old Lady Bags” to a safe shelter where she’d be fed and given a shower, clean clothes, food, and a bed  Another given was that our parish church, St. Saviour’s in Park Slope, was open 24 hrs. a day, and that every morning before school a priest would say Mass.  The nuns taught us that attending daily Mass would make us strong and help us to get into heaven, so when I was in the fourth grade I decided to make a habit of going. Good choice.

I particularly enjoyed receiving Communion each morning. It felt pure, holy, mysterious – much like many of my experiences with Nature as an adult.  One of them occurred this morning actually, when I took this picture while walking on a nearly-empty section of the beach at daybreak. And I must confess that fantasies as real and as impossible as those I held as a kid popped into my mind (uninvited, I might add). Oh, how I wished Jesus would come and relieve the dear friend who’s nursing her dying, cancer-ridden husband round the clock; would rescue and heal the daddy who’s drowning in the sea of alcoholism; would soothe the adults still suffering as a result of having been molested by priests; would convince those who haven’t seen the truth yet that black lives matter; would repair every assault Trump has made on the integrity of our country, and restore sanity to the presidency. The list could go on and on. But merely saying  “Come Lord Jesus, Come in Glory” ain’t gonna get Him here, any more than taking the host at Communion and then not thinking about it at all will. “Be what you are, the Body of Christ,” said St. Augustine.  “ Become what you receive, the Body of Christ.” There’s the challenge; there’s the invitation. And I didn’t come to this quote on my own. I wasn’t reading books like Summa Theologica while rearing my kids. No, this gem is from another nun, Sister Theresa Mary Finan, MSBT, whom I met when we were living in Auburn and going to St. Michaels, which at that time was a Catholic mission church. There’s a sweetness about remembering that time, and for that I am truly grateful and thus, can meet the day.

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