Anyone who grew up in a large family knows what it is like to live on a limited snack-food budget. When I was a child, I imagined that my mom had something like a snack food rating scale that she would utilize as a grocery store discernment aid. In my mind, it was a simple “1” to “10” rating system. Those snacks that no one but dad could eat would be rated a “1” (e.g. sardines, various pickles, etc…). A “10” would be reserved for those rare, but serious snacks made possible by recent advances in chemistry: “Twinkies,” “Ho Ho’s,” “Ding Dongs,” “Suzie Q’s,” and the like.
But there was one snack that was so delicious…so amazingly special, that it required the scale to be extended well beyond the ten point range to an “11,” or maybe even a “12.” It was that glorious combination of jelly, pastry, frosting, and sprinkles known as the “Pop Tart!” My brothers and sisters and I were convinced that if Jesus would have become incarnate in the Twentieth Century, He would have overlooked plain old bread, and selected the PopTart as his vehicle for transubstantiation. We knew with certitude that when we died, the first meal served to us in heaven would feature Pop Tarts as the main course.
My mom learned the hard way to avoid bringing home any snack food item that occupied the territory rated at a “7” or above on her snack food rating scale…especially Pop Tarts. Anyone who has been to an oceanfront beach has seen what happens when an unsuspecting child throws a Cheetoh to a lurking seagull. Immediately two hundred of the gull’s most intimate friends descend on the bewildered child with rapacious beaks, claws and feathers. After experiencing this Alfred Hitchcock moment, the child learns to keep her snacks to herself. After experiencing a couple Pop-Tart induced feeding frenzies, my mom avoided bringing home anymore of these coveted snacks to her own brood of seven sea gulls.
But in this world, occasionally, the laws of nature bend. I can recall that day when I interrupted my bike ride and returned home to tend to a rumbling stomach. As if I were on the set of a Twilight Zone episode, inexplicably, the house was vacant.…it was just the snack food cabinet and me. I surveyed my options. There, next to the soda crackers was a familiar looking wrapper… “It can’t be!”…”I’m seeing things”…and yet, there it was. I reached my trembling hand inside and discovered that in addition to Aquinas’s five proofs of God’s existence, I had discovered a sixth. And it was frosted. And it was cherry. And it had those delightful colored sprinkles all over it. In my unworthy, trembling hand, I held the majesty, the wonder of a single Pop-tart miraculously overlooked by my seagull siblings.
I quickly spirited it away to a lonely place and settled in for uninterrupted ecstasy. I slowly broke off tiny bits of the confection and placed them one-at-a-time on my tongue. Every effort was made to stretch out and savor this rare episode of berry flavored—carbohydrate heaven.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, (Luke 24: 35-48) the disciples were fearfully gathered one more time in an upper room. Without asking for it, without looking for it, the laws of nature bent. The resurrected Christ appeared in their midst. For a time, the disciples had difficulty believing that this could be real. And yet, here was he was.
There is a kind of magic that is knit into the fabric of our post-resurrection world. Despite all the slings and arrows that are part and parcel of our human existence, for those with eyes to see, grace has a way of subtly appearing when we least expect it. Around every corner Holy Mystery is attempting to hand us an unexpected experience of grace.
A useful Easter skill for moments such as these is well known to any child who has just discovered an overlooked Pop Tart. We need to “STOP,” “DROP,” and “SAVOR.” The art of momentarily dropping everything and savoring the grace of a particular moment has a way of embedding that grace more firmly into our souls. The disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel needed Jesus to show them that he was no figment of their imaginations. In the same way, stopping and savoring a grace that has arrived into our lives, has a way of making it more real for us. Our savoring helps us to really appropriate the grace that is ours. When we engage in a regular discipline of STOPPING, DROPPING and SAVORING, we develop evermore-sharpened senses to experience more grace in our lives.
Thousands of times a day in this world, a child with a room full of toys will announce to his parents, “I’m bored.” Thousands of times a day in this world, men and women will drive home past sunsets, rainbows, and stunning landscapes. Trapped in the maze of their obsessive thoughts, they will miss the opportunity to savor the cost-free artwork that surrounds them.
This Easter Season is a time to break ranks with these colleagues. Now is the time to develop those Easter disciplines of noticing the myriad moments when the resurrected Christ arrives with a special grace wrapped up for you if you will take the opportunity to stop, drop everything, and for one shining moment…to savor.