Cart Race

The grocery store near our house that I probably go to a minimum of six times a week has added small grocery carts to their grocery cart offerings. Nestled in between the normal-sized carts, the electric scooter carts, and the carts with the little area for kids to sit and pretend to drive — designed to torture young mothers and fathers given that their design makes them about the size of a 1968 Cadillac – sit these tiny little carts.

I love these carts. In fact, I will choose a grocery store that has these little carts over another store that doesn’t. They are easy to maneuver. I don’t run into the back of people’s legs when using one of them. Most important, they are so darn cute. The problem is, lots of people love them. In fact, I’m pretty sure ALL OF THE PEOPLE love them. This grocery store, and seemingly all of the stores that offer these little carts, only have about 10 of them.

This is problematic. Why? Well, picture this scenario. I am walking towards the entrance of the grocery store. I see that there is one of these little carts remaining, looking adorable next to the regular carts. I pick up my pace. Out of the corner of my eye, I see another woman who has also spotted the cart. She looks at me. I look at her. I start to trot. She starts to trot. Pretty soon I’m at a dead run, as is she. Happily, I have watched my nephew Austin slide into home plate often enough that I have an advantage. I win, though my clothing is dirty.

One sad day when even my slide into the carts didn’t work, I said to Bill (who happened to be with me, and frankly, doesn’t understand my love for these carts), “Everybody loves these little carts. I don’t understand why grocery stores don’t buy a whole bunch of these carts so that ALL THE PEOPLE can have them.”

He didn’t hesitate. He explained that it was likely that grocery stores preferred that patrons use the bigger carts because they are more liable to buy more groceries if their cart is bigger. Dang. He is probably right. Sometimes I hate consumerism. Mostly I am a tried-and-true believer in our Capitalistic system. I love that I have countless choices in produce, for example…..

But maybe not when it comes to grocery carts.

After Easter, the Catholic Church sets aside the Old Testament reading we generally hear during the Liturgy of the Word, and instead we listen to the Acts of the Apostles. This is my favorite time of the year for our liturgy readings because I love to read Acts. Here was yesterdays’ reading:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. – Acts 4:32-35

I had heard these words before, obviously, but this time they really struck me. I leaned over to Bill. “Basically, the disciples were socialists, weren’t they?” I said.

And then I spent the entire homily trying to figure out why Socialism doesn’t seem to work now like it did for the followers of Jesus. I am not going to provide the answer to that question, as my name isn’t John Stuart Mill, but I suspect that it has to do with basic human greed. Most socialist or communist societies have been unsuccessful because they don’t really follow true socialist teachings. There is always a winner, and he’s usually the leader.

But I reminded myself that the followers of Jesus had just spent the recent past three years with a man who lived his preaching, which was to love God and love each other. Maybe it was easier to share all you have with others when your very best friend had just given his life for you with only one instruction: Love everyone.

Plus they didn’t have to worry about sharing cute little shopping carts. That’s a game changer, my friends.

Agape

Jen called me early Sunday morning, and she was very excited.

“I know you’re getting ready for church, but I just wanted to tell you that you are going to LOVE today’s readings,” she said. She knows me well.

I really did love all three of the readings.

First of all, the weeks following Easter Sunday, I enjoy the stories from the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, I like the stories so much that it makes me wonder why I don’t simply READ the Acts of the Apostles several times a year. It is my most sincere hope that I don’t get struck down by lightening generated by St. Paul, but I mostly enjoy reading about the time before Paul’s conversion. I love reading about the apostles’ enthusiasm right out of the box and St. Peter’s rather bungling ways. But in Sunday’s first reading, Peter is not bungling. He thumbs his nose at the Sanhedrin  when they tell the apostles that they must – they simply MUST – stop preaching about Jesus as they had been instructed. Peter tells them, “We must obey God rather than men.”

No bungling. As clear as a summer morning in the Rocky Mountains.

The second reading was from Revelation, but instead of being confusing, as I find most of the Book of Revelation, the message is clear: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. And perhaps I like this reading because as the lector reads the words, I hear Handel’s version of Worthy is the Lamb that was slain being sung in my head. Next to the Hallelujah Chorus, that is my favorite Chorus in Handel’s Messiah.

But actually, what grabbed Jen’s attention and to what she wanted me to pay attention was the St. John’s Gospel. It was actually kind of a two part gospel. The first part tells the story of a handful of the apostles going out fishing and having a terrible day. They caught nothing. Suddenly, a man on the shore suggests they cast the net again, which they do. This time, the net is so full of fish that it begins to break. All of a sudden, they realize the stranger was actually Jesus. (Well, actually, in John’s gospel, here’s how he puts it: So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. SO THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

John refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved several times thoughout his gospel, and it always makes me laugh. Biblical scholars probably have theories about this; I, on the other hand, always want to slap him aside the head and tell him to have some humility. It’s the mom in me.

The second part of the gospel tells us that Jesus takes Peter aside (ahem, leaving THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED behind; just sayin’) and asks him three times, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Three times Peter says yes, getting a bit crabbier each time. I always found it understandable that Peter got annoyed. At first glance, Jesus sounds needy.

Here’s where Jen’s phone call came in. The homilist at her Mass explained why he believes Jesus asked three times. In the Greek language, there are three words for “love.” One refers to intimate love such as that between spouses. The second refers to the love one has for a friend. That word is phileo. The third refers to a deep and profound love, such as the love God has for us. That word is agape. In the Greek interpretation of this gospel, Jesus uses the word agape. When Peter responds to Jesus’ question, he uses the word phileo. Jen’s homilist suggests that Jesus wanted Peter to promise that he loves Jesus with agape love. It is only when Peter feels agape love that he can truly follow Christ.

I think that Jesus asks me every day of my life, Kristine Rae, do you love me? I’m pretty sure my answer is pretty much what Peter said. Of course I love you. But is it phileo or agape?