This week I would like to give you a bit of a “behind-the-scenes” look at seminary life. I thought that some of you may be wondering, “Aside from doing missions in China, serving Mass for the Pope, and talking about Saints...what do people do every day at seminary?” Sooooo....brace yourself for a unique look into my life at Seminary.
The drama of this past week could not have been scripted any better. It all started just over a week ago as we (the Mobile guys) rediscovered a concept called “Clowning.” We had all gone out to eat lunch together, and on the way back, I decided to trip one of the others in jest. After succeeding, he came back with a couple accomplices and succeeded in pulling my shirt up over my head. Upon the success, on of the guys spontaneously proclaimed his victory shouting, “Oooo Son! You just got CLOWNED!” This succeeded in sending us all into hysterics and “CLOWNING” was re-born.
Within less than twenty-four hours the whole Concept of Clowning really developed. Some standard practices we developed were hitting things out of people’s hands when they weren’t suspecting it (like books); pulling the hoodie of someone’s sweatshirt down over their face and holding it; and coming up behind someone and tackling them to the floor without having a chance to defend themselves. These small conquests, among others, gave one the right to justly say to another, “Oooo Man! You just got CLOWNED!”
For a couple days, this whole “Clowning Business” went along marvelously. New methods were developing all of the time, and everything seemed relatively under control. But soon enough, as is always the case, things got a bit out of hand....
One evening my entire class had a conference to attend in our student lounge. The presenter was confused about the location of the meeting, and ended up arriving about 12 minutes late. In the interim, I just could not resist this fortuitous moment to get a couple good Clownings in before the presenter showed. So I got the ball going by wrestling another seminarian down to the ground. Hardly before I had finished, a wave of Clownings shot through the room. All of a sudden, someone had stolen my shoe right off of my foot, another guy was trapped in his hoodie, and another got his ice-cream bar knocked out of his hands. The best, however, was yet to come. After the priest delivered his conference, a seminarian, now in cahoots with another seminarian seeking Clowning-vengeance, pinned the seminarian in front of him to the back of his chair...allowing me and another guy to come and jab his ribs. Just as we were about to shout out our well deserved “Clown-Jeer,” the priest who had just presented said to the Clownee, “Well, I am sure you did something to deserve this!” Hahaha. CLOWNED!!! The bliss of that moment cannot be related.
Despite my Clowning success, I began to hear rumbling amongst the ranks that they felt Justice had been compromised. I did not know the half of it until the following evening.
I was in my hall’s lounge fixing some coffee, when all of a sudden everything grew eerily quiet. The hairs on my neck stood up as I listened to slow, methodical footsteps coming down the hall. Then before I could put the pieces together, I was standing face to face with.....
At the time, I did not know him by that title...I just knew that I had been incapacitated by 7 yellow, plastic, air-gun pellets. As quickly as he had come, he was gone. Stammering back to my room, I sat down at my desk to discover the following “Bulletin” in my email box just minutes later:
Today a Justice Hit in NAC hall mafia wars was carried out and completed upon Victor Ingalls and the target eliminated. This hit ordered due to extensive investigation into the recent hostile activities against one Mr. Joe Shmoe of 3rd Floor. Victor Ingalls found to be the prime contributing personage for instigating this event was hereby sentenced by the controlling NAC Hall Mafia. This in the interest of maintaining peace and Justice.
Victor Ingalls is out of any clowned action or further molestation of others for a period of 5 days due to the success of this hit operation. It was reported that Mr. Ingalls crouched on the floor and cried like a 5 year old girl.
Should there be any response to this Justice action there will be swift and sure punishment to the offender or offenders. As you know Justice only acts to correct severe injustices and quell any further hostilities caused by gross acts of Injustice. We do not act for simple "loot and pillaging" activities. These of course are acceptable. The investigation showed this to be an act of egregious circumstances and retaliation that followed although justified found to have possible lasting effects on allegiances and alliances.
Just like that, I had been EQUALIZED. And now could not fulfill my urge to Clown everyone around me. The Equalizer’s presence now always had to be taken into consideration. You just knew he was lurking behind every cracked door.
You just didn’t want to be the next victim!
But...just when I felt all “Clowning Momentum” was screeching to a halt, along came an unassuming man named Corey Close of Davenport, Iowa. He came to me after classes one day wanting to understand “Clowning”--its beginnings, its parameters, and its current status--and what the presence of the Equalizer meant to the community at large. As I explained such things, a glimmer emerged and then set ablaze as the “Clown” was awakened within him.
Before we had finished walking home, Corey’s metamorphosis was complete--his mysterious-alter identity was complete---“The Circus.” “The Circus” vowed to bring “Clowning” back to the mainstream. To do so, he knew who must be his first target--The Equalizer.
Although, the identity of the Equalizer was, is, and assumedly will always be unknown, “The Circus” had to settle for someone known to be the Equalizer’s most loyal disciple and informant--Mobile’s very own...Phil Halladay.
Pictured below, Just take a look at how happy Phil was.
This face was unmarred until waking up to find this, taped onto his bedroom door along with a sheet of newspaper:
Such a finding, left Phil feeling sad and confused.
There was only one thing to do, bring the evidence to the Equalizer and demand justice! In a blink of an eye the Equalizer was on the case. Nobody was above suspicion. Nobody was above being EQUALIZED. Every minute that passed, the Equalizer moved closer to finding the man behind this “grievous offense.” But the investigation did not terminate...before others found themselves “Circus Bound.”
Now, take a gander at the gleeful Steven Vrazel of Mobile, AL.
As “King” of the College’s Student Body, the “Circus” targeted him next to really send the Equalizer a message. The following bulletin was found by King Vraz in his room:
See how quickly his glee morphed into devastation.
Finally, we look to the “Circus” third and final victim--Pat Arensberg (another Mobilian). Having spent the summer in China with me, the “Circus” knew that Pat had to be “Clowned” before my probationary time was up. Again, notice the general positive aura about Pat, Pre-Clowning.
Now the Post-Clowning.
The contrast could not be sharper!
But as the third man was coerced into the “Circus,” the Equalizer made his move. After analyzing the ink samples from the “Clowning Images,” the tape used to post the Clowning images, and interrogating 95% of the seminary population...the Equalizer had narrowed his investigation down to about three main suspects.
The Equalizer was faced with a decision. Either he acted now, or was sure to watch more innocent people roped into the “Circus Life.” Just as he was on the brink of making this historic move......
We all lost interest and dropped the whole thing!
What Drama! What Pageantry! What Suspense! What Vengeance!
In the end it was Boredom...and not Vengeance that brought about Justice! Who would have ever guessed?!
As I now transition, let us gaze once more upon that infamous...disturbing face....
As absurd as that sub-current was in my life this past week, it really gave a lot to think about. Especially as a couple other sub-currents ran parallel to it.
It just so happened that throughout this past week, in my Canon Law class, we treated the subject of “Justice.” As the Equalizer was bringing about "justice" at the NAC, we were learning about “Evangelical Justice”--born of the Gospel and structures all Christian living.
Our professor showed us how Christ, in fact, is the foundation of True Justice. Jesus came and led his disciples beyond a “justice of vengeance”...a simple tit-for-tat retributive form of justice---in which I will pull your hair if you pull mine.
Rather, Jesus offered his disciples something Positive rather than negative. Something more oriented to the good of the Community rather than the individual. Something that pushes the limits of Self-Giving as opposed to fixing strict prescriptions as to what one is entitled. Something rooted in Perfect Charity rather than in Vengeance. Something not solely bound to the “letter of the law” but to the establishment, perseverance, and deepening of Loving Fraternity among men and women.
This True Justice we may call Evangelical Justice (EJ). Ultimately, this EJ aims to bring people into Communion with God and his people..i.e. your neighbor. This EJ does not operate according to the wisdom of this world. We must only look to the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, to see how the “sense” behind EJ is something radically different (SEE Matt 20:1-16).
The interpretive key to this parable and arguably the whole “sense” of the Gospel is GIFT. Only when we ask ourselves as St. Paul, “What do we have, that we have not received?” can we realize that everything is GIFT. Our very lives have been given to us freely. None of us asked to be here...None of us did anything to merit our very existence. So everything in our lives must be understood under the over-arching concept of GIFT. At our core, we are GIFT. And God is GIVER.
In the Parable cited above, the vineyard owner gives a denary (or a day’s wage--the minimum amount with which one could pay for their daily need of food and shelter in Biblical times) to both he who worked one hour and he who worked all day. The one who had worked all day felt that the owner treated him unjustly and thus grumbles against him. The owner responds in this way:
“My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
15(Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'
16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.
Why should we be upset when someone is given food and shelter to make it through the day? Why should we be upset with a wealthy man who decides to be generous with another in need, who does not happen to be us? How much sense does it make for us to grumble against God, who is the very reason that we even exist in the first place? How can we begin to split hairs with a God who has bought us with a price more precious than we could ever repay--the blood of his Son?
All things considered, we are given another image of EJ as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.
(Changing gears but bear with me...)
You know, of all the creatures in the world, only human beings laugh. Because only they have the ability to realize the incongruity between two things. Only humans can see the irony between the way something is and the way something ought to be.
This reflection came to mind as I juxtaposed what I was learning in class about EJ this past week with the Drama of Clowning, Vengeance, Equalizing, and Circuses back at the College. I realized why the whole ordeal was so Hilarious to us--because it was sooo contrary to the kind of Justice that we have discovered in Christ! The contrast between Perfect Charity and Vengeance was so stark that it was just...Silly to us....thus the laughing.
I don’t know how a Christian (or anyone for that matter) can get along in this life, without a sense of humor. Think about it:
We are finite beings yet we have an infinite desire to be loved and known.
We are sinful yet called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is Perfect.
The Cross--a brutal instrument of execution--is the sign of our hope, joy, and salvation.
Our weakness is our strength.
The first shall be last.
We are something and yet God made us out of nothing.
We are in control of our choices but at once not in control over the sum of our lives (i.e. when we are born, when we die).......
If I couldn’t see the irony in all of this...If I couldn’t just sigh and laugh...I don’t know I would make it through the day.
One last thought for this week. This quote came to me in an email this week as well:
“A man without a sense of humor is an unreasonable burden on the people around him.”
--St. Thomas Aquinas
Lord, in the face of the Infinite Mystery of Your Love, give us the courage to trustingly laugh as we confront our limits and to abandon our lives into your hands. May your Justice...your Perfect Charity guide all things in our lives. And may we become more and more faithful as your servants each day. We love you and adore you.
NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:
Pilate said to Jesus,
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?"
Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
THIS WEEK'S LINKS:
Cullman, AL SPECIAL: For any of you entrepreneurs out there who are looking for a new angle on your product, this is a MUST SEE. Also, if you are from Alabama, or have ever heard of "Alabama," I would also recommend this video.
Pictures from our College: There are several photos archived on my College's website. They are all organized by year and event. So, feel free to check these out as well as the many other resources on our site (www.pnac.org)
Roll Tide! 10-0!
Have a Blessed Week!