It's funny how we can do terrible things to one another and deal with it, but small slights are often harder to endure.
I have been having a wonderful Christmas with friends and family, but one former friend, who is angry at me, refused to return a "Merry Christmas" message, a simple offer of peace and reconciliation in the spirit of the season. This person has injured me in many ways, but nothing has hurt more than this clamming up in the face of a simple "Merry Christmas". This act is more telling and more vile than any that have gone before it.
And it brought up the question of How are we do deal with the NO?
The single great and enduring frustration of running Theater of the Word Incorporated over the years has been the persistent NO we've been getting from within the Church.
- A local parish, whose young parishioners don't seem to know who Christ is, spends $350,000 to repave its parking lot but won't spend $1,000 to evangelize through drama.
- An organization in Massachusetts books a tour of our pro-life play Sarah's Secret, signs the contract, pays the deposit, and then at the last minute cancels the tour for fear that the pro-life message will offend local Kennedy-Catholics - as well it should.
- A Mid-Western bishop attends a performance of and expresses great enthusiasm for our play that encourages vocations, but won't spend $1400 for us to perform it before high school students in Kansas City. Instead, he spends a thousand times that amount to defend himself from criminal charges that resulted in a small fine.
Now, I'm not saying that people who don't book our shows are wrong not to book them. I would never book shows by a touring Catholic theater troupe. It just sounds too awful, you know?
But the persistent NO is a conundrum all the same.
It's a conundrum because you don't know how to deal with it. Are we charging too much for our shows? you ask yourself, even though you're selling them at a loss. Then you try offering them free and you find you can't even give them away.
And they're not bad. I have enough experience in show business to know our shows are really quite good, in fact better than anything else I've seen of a similar nature.
I had a dream one night.
A Frodo-type character in a Lord of the Rings-type saga is making his way through innumerable adventures not (as in Tolkien's epic) to destroy the ring, but in order to marry the princess.
At the climax of his saga, he appears before God, who sits at a judge's bench. The wedding is about to begin, when it is revealed - in front of God and everybody - that the princess has said NO. She has issued the reverse of Mary's fiat. The marriage will not occur; the quest has been a failure.
The sense in the dream is that this is like the moment when Frodo reaches the crux of his adventure and can not find it in himself to destroy the ring, to complete the action that he came for, the deed that his whole life's saga was pointing toward.
But there is also a sense in the dream that the marriage becomes a monastic one, that the NO of the princess is answered by an unexpected YES. There is a sense that the Frodo character is not really the groom but the bride; that it is really he who has been sought after by the great Bridegroom who seeks after us all, and that when the world says NO we can always say YES.
It is not a question of the NO of the princess to the groom. It is a question of the YES of the groom to a Greater Groom, a YES of one bride that redeems another bride's NO.
The command to shake the dust off our feet and move on when we are rejected is not the NO it appears to be - it is not returning a NO with another NO. It is simply the recognition that the NO of others is not really our concern. It is God's seed that we are spreading, not our own. What business is it of ours if His message is rejected, if (for example) something as simple as His offer of peace and reconciliation is ignored, even at Christmas?
For we can always counter that NO with a YES, a YES to Him. Even if we are left standing at the altar, crushed and abandoned by the princess or the mere lady in whom we had placed so much hope, the marriage feast is not cancelled. For the world always lets us down. And the wedding is consummated beyond the world.
The Bridegroom is coming. And to Him we say an everlasting YES.
Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no”? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Cor. 1:17-20)