I understand that perhaps I qualify as a “religious weirdo” or, more accurately, in the words of Francis, I’m a holy fool. As I write, a familiar instrumental jazz song swings on WWUH and it takes me a bit to recognize what it is; it’s the old Doobie Brothers song from 1979, one of the most devastating years of my former blackout life: “What a Fool Believes.”
I am still reluctant, ambivalent, in sharing how I love looking right at Jesus. The change is within me: I can no longer keep him on the periphery of my sigh. I meant to tap out: keep him on the periphery of my sight. How I love this possibility of him being there, too, on the edge of my sighing.
I live in a world of typos. Recently I crossed paths with an image of a twelfth-century fresco in Austria, and when writing about Jesus taking that first loaf, I claimed the child “still held four loves in his arms.” Four Loves. All the mistakes that I make, all the mix-ups, the missteps, still leading me, perhaps, into the loaves, beyond sighing.
• • •
Whoever he is, he’s ineffable and boundless. Or so it seems to me. When I’m scared of putting my faith out into the world, when I hear myself lament, “I never wanted to end up this way,” what I’m saying is that I never planned on writing the truth of how I’ve always needed to find his face, to turn it toward me. The Sacred Heart I keep near my bed sees me with eyes of love, acceptance, tenderness, hope, grounding. I always will have a hungry part, that baby I once was, arms reaching up. In the decades I’ve lived since being in a crib, the decades since carrying babies of my own, my need has only gotten deeper. The more heartache I’ve suffered and the more suffering I’ve witnessed, what I need most is someone—a brother, Jesus; a mother, Mary—who will never leave me.
No matter how or why it’s happened, these three words, gather the fragments, elicit within me a desire to protect them, the surest sign of love. Fragments have a bad reputation that they’re less than, incomplete, surpassed. But bread is both whole and made to be broken open, honoring the parts of us sullied and hurt, with a center of untouched purity that has never known disappointment or violence or betrayal.
• • •
I am driving down the road toward my favorite walking site. It’s humid, but nothing like it was yesterday. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t even finish reading any articles right now. International news, social issues, issues of faith. Just as one violent or tumultuous news story recedes, the next one appears. I live in a scorched world. What can I bring? I try to be true in who I am, clear in my refusal to give in to cynicism. I don’t talk of Christ, though, not outside of church. I code-switch all the time. I offer freely, in many conversations, “I have a very deep faith,” but I don’t often mention Jesus. I keep him as a hidden indwelling, like my heartbeat; he’s there, soft—can anyone hear it?
The fragments of love are not lost, scattered things, but are within me as I drive the S-shaped road I’ve driven down hundreds of times before. The miracle speaks into the scarcity in me, reaching at last to the place of enough. Why didn’t he create just exactly what everyone in the crowd that day needed? Certainly he could have. Why was there extra, so much?
I think the unequivocal answer is: he never measures and weighs, doesn’t count, keep score, or tally what is given. He just gives. A feeling wells up and overtakes me: He just wants to feed all of us. And before I know it, I’m crying, envisioning the people around the world with our divisions disappearing. Billions and billions of us with no labels, no names, no groups, no separations. Just all of us, human beings, calling out together on this planet. Can you hear our canticle?