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Back in the saddle

This week I resumed my ministry of offering blessings outside. Only now I have a special mask to match my stole (green for the season of Pentecost), and I draw an "X" with sidewalk chalk to show people where to stand (6 feet away).

My blessing hiatus lasted nearly four months with the pandemic. Our neighborhood was eerily desolate during lockdown, and while foot traffic has increased, it's far from the normal hustle and bustle with a mass of morning commuters. But the buses still roar by. So between masks and social distancing, every exchange I have involves lots of yelling just to understand what the other person is saying. A little awkward, but not much of a deterrent, for those who stop are super eager to talk. I guess most of us have been so deprived of face-to-face conversation that merely interacting with someone can feel like a precious moment you're reluctant to end. It feels that way to me at least.

Of course the "talkers" are usually people who share my love of witnessing to the power of God, and they can go on at length under any circumstances. One such person was a woman wearing a mask that pictured a drawing of the Virgin Mary with the words "Our Lady of the Savior.” She shared some highlights of her life story, stressing the hardships she'd overcome only by God's grace. She described Jesus as "my Lord and my Love," which I found quite moving. And then she told me that she prayed Jesus would give her just a little of the pain he experienced on the cross. This was a new one for me.

Suffering is certainly a pervasive theme in Scripture just as it is in life. It can help a great deal to see our own pain as consistent with, and perhaps even prescribed by, the Biblical narrati