instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

With an empty heart and a dollar ten

Mickey Jupp is a British musician who wrote a song called "Standing at the Crossroads Again," which contains one of the most heartbreaking lyrics I've heard in popular music:
I guess I'm not the man she was looking for
but just the man she found.
The song's narrator learns that, rather than being the subject of his baby's love, he was an object, and (as of this morning) he has been disposed of. Not quite "Nobody loves me but my mother" territory, but not too far off. What to my mind adds poignancy to this staple of the blues is the recognition, by both the narrator and his former baby, that there is a man she (and a woman he) is looking for, and that settling for something easier (or less, or just other) leads to heartbreak.

And so he's
Standing at the crossroads again,
With an empty heart and a dollar ten.
What does he think will happen to him there?
Maybe I'll bump into some famous names,
Robert Johnson, Elmore James.
Those two famous names, of course, each recorded a song Johnson wrote called "Cross Road Blues," the lyrics of which don't exactly offer much hope for the narrator. (And that's without getting into the whole selling-your-soul business.)

But I don't think he's particularly expecting to meet a famous name. The crossroads is, quite simply, where you find yourself standing after your baby says, "Goodbye, I don't want you no more." Standing at the crossroads is what you do until you find out what you're going to do next.

[Here's the turn-around:]

Let me suggest that, when you celebrate Mass this Easter, joining you in your church will be a number of people who are standing at the crossroads again -- with (in fact) an empty heart and (figuratively) a dollar ten.

They will be there because there is where they go on Easter. They will be variously smiled at, cursed at, and tolerated, but generally dismissed as "Christmas and Easter Catholics" who do little more than clog the parking lot and mess up poll results (remember, 70% of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence).

Here, though, I'm not talking about the C&E Catholics too spiritually full of themselves to go to Mass on lesser feasts. I'm talking about those people, maybe not even baptized, who are too spiritually empty to go to Mass, except when it will be crowded enough that no one will notice their emptiness.

And maybe this will be the year when a word or a gesture reveals to them that the Man they were looking for is here, in this church, on this altar, with these people. Maybe the prayer that makes it so will be yours.