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What keeps me Catholic? Bumper stickers

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May 1, 2012

By Michael Daley
On a daily basis I encounter them — disturbing, startling, discomforting, angering, humorous, ironic, sarcastic, irreverent, damning, uplifting, and insightful words and images. Though you may be led to think that I’m referring to the newspaper, television, books, or a billboard as the source, I’m actually speaking about car bumper stickers.

For some of us these statements are on our own cars. For others, myself included, we see them while passing another car on the highway or stopped at a red light. As I’ve done countless times before, here we inch our cars forward to see who’s in the driver’s seat trying to connect the message with the person.

 

Without fail these bumper stickers provoke a response or, better yet, a question. Not only about the person behind the wheel, but the issue addressed through their bumper sticker. One of my favorites is: “Jesus Is Coming. Look Busy.”

 

It quickly came to my mind as I pondered the words of the “two men dressed in white” at the Ascension of Jesus: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”
Jesus just has transcendently risen to heaven to sit at God’s “right hand.” Paradoxically, though He is now physically absent from His followers, soon He will be spiritually present to them in ever more intimate ways through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

I don’t know about you, but for me the wonder and awe of the Ascension gives way to a more immediate concern — He’s coming back! I know I can’t look busy. I have to be busy about helping to bring forth the Kingdom of God. In what seems to be an endless interim between Jesus’ Ascension and His second coming, the only thing you and I are called to do is practice, or better said, live our faith. In so doing, we will either embrace Jesus in the peoples and events we encounter or flee from him.

 

The testimony of scripture is pretty clear on this. In fact, as the Gospel of Matthew confirms, our salvation depends upon it: “Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

 

To not be caught unaware and off guard, I need to be vigilant, awake, alert, and prepared for Christ’s coming in the “other.” This is a vigilantism — waiting lovingly, actively, and nonviolently in faith — far greater and more demanding than the redemptive violence of the Dark Knight.

 

In this, the challenge and prayer of St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Carmelite and doctor of the church, remains:

 

• Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he is to look out – Christ’s compassion to the world.

• Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.

• Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others  now.

 

What keeps me Catholic? Bumper stickers and the need to be ever vigilant as to Jesus’ return.

 

Daley is a freelance writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School.

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