“Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one, either. It's all part of the cosmic unconsciousness.”
This is a bizarre quote from an equally bizarre film, Repo Man. The speaker, simply known as Miller, is expounding to a young repo man, simply known as Otto, his theory concerning what he calls “the lattice of coincidence.”
Otto’s response to Miller’s insight is equally bizarre: “You eat a lot of acid, Miller? Back in the hippie days?”
Well, maybe he did, but since truth knows not the mouth from which it comes maybe Miller is on to something. We’ve all had those “plate o’ shrimp” moments in our lives and sometimes they deal with things as random as a plate o’ shrimp, but other times they have the feel of a deliberate message from God, Miller’s “cosmic unconsciousness.”
My most recent “plate o’ shrimp” moment came this week as I opened and read an email from my son-in-law and rising-star Saint Ignatius English teacher Thomas Yarcusko ’12.
The purpose of the email was to point me to an America magazine podcast interview of Malcom Gladwell, but it was embedded in a newsletter from Fr. James Martin, S.J. which included Fr. Martin’s reflection on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th). In this reflection Fr. Martin notes his own surprise that “in John’s Gospel, Jesus’s “glorification” was not so much the Resurrection as the Crucifixion. John’s way of looking at it was that in Jesus’s obedience to the Father, even accepting death on a Cross, He glorifies Himself.” Fr. Martin links this to all of us by pointing out that “it’s always important to bring our suffering in prayer before Jesus, and to remember that He suffered as a human being, even on the cross, and so understands us.” Plate.
In my personal reading I have been spending time with the book God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith, an extended interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
On Monday I read Sarah’s description of the state of the Church in his home nation of Guinea under the Marxist regime of Sékou Touré. He called the persecutions “a terrible Way of the Cross.” He then proposes that there is great meaning in this situation when he notes that “the physical experience of the cross is a grace that is absolutely necessary for our growth in the Christian faith and a providential opportunity to conform ourselves to Christ so as to enter into the depths of the ineffable.” Shrimp.
This all came in the middle of a several-day classroom discussion of the fact that all people suffer and that we, as Christians, can only answer our critics – those who believe that our God is either too weak or too detached to help alleviate our suffering – by pointing to the Cross. Through the passion and death of Jesus God knows suffering not as a distant observer, but as a suffering participant. Who could read the Gospel narratives of the events of Holy Week or see the film The Passion of the Christ and say that God does not understand what we are going through? Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant, the Second Person of the Trinity, can empathize with any suffering that we go through, and we can therefore see our suffering in light of the Cross. Plate o’ shrimp.
In the same monologue Miller notes that “a lot of people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidents and things.” As followers of the One Who is the reason for the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross we know better. Maybe enjoying a plate o’ shrimp on Saturday would be a fitting way to celebrate that knowledge.
Ave Crux, Spes Unica: Hail the Cross, our only hope!