November 8, 2011

Keys Ut Regnum (Keys to the Kingdom)

My dog is a social butterfly.  There is little on this earth that makes her happier than when people come to see her, as clearly everyone must be when they arrive at our front door.  When the door opens, she leaps about in joy, delighted that another of her People Friends has made her day by dropping in to say hello.  Her enthusiasm bowls them over, as she covers them in kisses, tail whirling like the blur of helicopter blades.

Thus, the joke around our house is, if it were a burglar at the front door, she would invite them in and offer them the silver.

Despite this, however, my dog otherwise is a pretty smart cookie.  It didn’t take her long, for example, to figure out that the jingle of scooped up car keys meant the imminent solitude of her cage: abandonment.  And in the worst possible form for a dog from the pound.  Having lived in a cage and been abandoned to one, she never exactly has been what you would call an avid fan of crate training.  No matter how cozy we made her little den, my dog never truly resigned herself to the fact that, as the unfortunate possessor of a hamster-sized bladder, she must, for the sake of the carpet,  be relegated to her Cozy Canine Cubby whenever she is left alone in the house.  (And no, the charming moniker did not fool her either.)

So, when my dog hears keys rattle, she knows we are about to leave.  Keys, therefore, mean abandonment.

I was reminded of this last Sunday in church.  My husband and I are the antithesis of most Catholics;  we make a bee-line for the front row, right in front of the tabernacle.  I want to be front-and-center with the Lord, where He can keep an eye on me and I can keep an eye on Him, with minimal distractions.

But last Sunday, this wasn’t to be.

We were running late (no surprise, with six small children and my perpetual vice of tardiness), so we altered our path and entered the church from the rear vestibule, joining other late-comers in surreptitiously slinking into a rear pew, mumbling and fumbling through the last verse of the opening hymn as everyone settled in.

Although it was disconcerting for me to be what felt like a football field’s distance away from the Lord, all went well throughout the Mass -- until we stood for the closing hymn.  As the cantor announced the number in the hymnal, I had to struggle to hear her voice over a different sudden chorus of sound.  A chorus of jingling.


Now, I would like to think that I am smarter than my dog.  And so is God.  So, it took only a moment to put two-and-two together for what my dog already knew: people + keys = abandonment.

Not a good position to be in with the Almighty, eh?  And He is a lot smarter than me and my dog.

Barring family crisis or extenuating circumstances, let’s see whose company we keep when we decide to nip out early on the Lord as we leave Mass:

1).        Judas: Hardly a model of good manners, Judas slipped out of the Last Supper before dessert to go finalize plans to abandon the Lord.  Should we collect 30 pieces of silver along with the bulletin, too, then?

2).        The Apostles: The apostles all made hasty retreats into anonymity as the Lord was dragged from Gethsemane.  Blessedly for us, however, all but one later suffered martyrdom for the Faith.

3).        Peter: The Rock of the Church himself abandoned the Lord, denying Him three times.  Not exactly one of Peter’s more shining moments.

4).        Thomas: We do not call someone a “doubting Thomas” for nothing, do we?  Possibly an aspiring lawyer, Thomas demanded cold hard evidence before he would believe that a Man, whom he personally had seen perform numerous physical and spiritual miracles, had performed the ultimate miracle Himself.

Abandoned.  Every single one of them abandoned the Lord.  Yet, all the way up to the Cross, the Lord never abandoned us.

So, why do we keep abandoning Him?

Thankfully, eleven of the twelve apostles were “scared straight,” later spreading the Good News and, for some, even giving their lives for Jesus and His Church.

With such sacrifice in mind, I mean, really, is it that critical we get out of Mass a few minutes early?  Do we all have a dying parent to whose death bed we are rushing?  Do we not have a mere two more minutes to sing, praise, and give thanks to the God from Whom we profess to believe all blessings flow?  Or do we have one eye on our hymnal and the other on Father to see if we can beat him to the door.  As my grandmother used to say, “It’s not a race, you know!”

This is where our Protestant brothers and sisters excel.  They’re still enthusiastically singing several hymns for hours, while we’re busy watching the clock and leaving skid marks out of the church parking lot.  Forget the Sign of Peace – turn on your blinker and get out of my way, pal!

If we’re going to put an egg timer on Mass, then we’re there for the wrong reason.  Stop.  Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Maybe even stick around for a few minutes and enjoy the soothing silence once the church is almost empty.  Don’t just show up and punch in and out.  Be there.  Be present.  Take time to be with the Lord.  After all, He’s waiting there just for you.

That’s right – the Creator of the known Universe is waiting in the tabernacle just for lil’ ole YOU!  Isn’t that grand!?

“Ugh!”  I can hear you say.  Do I sound like your mother?  Maybe.  Or a grouchy old harpie?  Probably.  But, I’ve got six young babies of my own, so I’ve already had a ton of practice in reminding little people about the importance of our Faith, which I also frequently do not fully appreciate nor utilize.

So please, remember the wisdom of a small dog:  keys mean abandonment.  You’re not fooling anyone, least of all the Lord.

He’s a pretty smart cookie, you know.

P.S. - Please note, sadly, this beloved dog has since passed away.  But, we still have our 130lb., cantankerous, grouchy, clever, perpetually hungry, protective, bear-hunting Akita.  Just in case you had your eyes on the silver.  ;-)

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  (Matt. 26:40-41)

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