Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive"

"The body of Christ," the Deacon says to me. "Amen," I respond as he places the wafer in my left hand. It's the same as it is in every mass, but this time I look at him and chuckle inside. Let me explain why.

Saturday evening I got a hankering for a mint julep. Having no bourbon, this meant a run to the store. On the door to the liquor store is a sign saying something like "We I.D. everyone who appears younger than thirty." So I am pretty excited when the cashier asks for my I.D. I tell her so, and she looks at me quizzically. I mention the sign, and she says "Oh, I just needed to see it because you paid with a debit card." Sigh.

Anyway, then it was off to the grocery store. We wanted to grill some burgers and I needed to get buns, tomatoes, beer and other essentials. I entered the beer isle and with great joy saw that for the first time this year they had Sam Adam's summer ale, and even on sale! Excitedly I reached for the six pack. As I grabbed it I looked to the left and there was the Deacon from our church, likewise placing beer in his cart.

To fully appreciate this you need to know two things. One, I'm Catholic but I used to be a Baptist. Two, for a Baptist to run into one of his church's deacons in the beer isle would be kind of like Roy Moore and Tom Parker seeing each other at an ACLU gathering. Alcohol is a big no-no for baptists, at least the southern type. So that is why I chuckled this morning when that same Deacon handed me the Body of Christ.

But I did more than chuckle. When I got back from my errands last night I made that mint julep. I sat on my front porch and spent half an hour nursing it. The sun slowly set, revealing all the colors of the yard, trees, and flowers. The little family of finches in our birdhouse chirped. The breeze blew. My dog slept at my feet. Neighbors strolled by. Transubstantiation is what they say happens to that wafer. What it means, in my mind anyway, is that the world can be a good place. Maybe not most of the time. Maybe only occasionally. But when it is, like it was while I sipped that drink, it is very good. So when I took the wafer this morning I also thought about how many different ways we experience the divine every day.

That's not to be naive. The world is an ugly place, by and large. But neither inherently nor eternally so. And in the meanwhile, I'll enjoy the good to the fullest.