Ever since I was a kid, I have had a fascination with monsters…from the Mummy, to Mole People, Alien invaders, to “Pumpkin Head,” the make-believe monster who lived in the closet of my bedroom whom I would battle during the day and who, at night, taught me how to sleep safely in my bed….you know completely wrapped up in the covers so basically only my nose would peek out – so I could breathe of course and live to fight another day. Then there was the epitome of all things scary – Frankenstein and anything Zombie. Something about creatures classified as the walking dead seem to frighten me most of all. It comes as no surprise to those who really know me, that I am a big fan of the show by the same name: The Walking Dead which airs every Sunday night – both Fr. Joe and I would mention how we had to get home after our 9 PM Mass to catch the latest episode we had recorded. You see while we disagreed greatly in our political outlooks – Fr. Joe and I usually agreed with most things liturgical, ministerial and in this fascination with monsters and zombies. Don’t believe me? In his office, hung photos of the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and a still photo from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” – a sci-fi movie we both loved from the 50’s. After Fr. Joe’s passing I was given the privilege to acquire some of his personal things, mostly books. You would be surprised at his collection….all kinds of books about monsters….Dracula, Frankenstein and of course many books on philosophy – including philosophy of The Walking Dead.
Now before y’all think I have finally gone off the deep end trying to figure out why in the world I would be talking about monsters and the walking dead on the Fifth Sunday of Lent allow me just a little more leeway to elaborate.
While my fascination with monsters as a child was centered on the fictitious kind, I have come to realize as an adult there are real monsters in the world. The real monsters are those who walk into a Christmas party and murder indiscriminately or fly planes with innocent people into towers and they’re even the worst kind of monster when they use religion as their motive. The real monsters are the parents who abuse their children locking them in closets to starve because they don’t exactly know how to deal with them; monsters are so-called men who beat their wives or girlfriends when emotional and psychological manipulation isn’t enough to keep them so-called “in-line.” Monsters are those who will exploit women and children as sexual commodities instead of treating them as the beautiful daughters and sons of God that they are. Monsters are even doctors who under oath of “do no harm” will destroy a child in-utero under the lie of woman’s health or those doctors, growing in number, who will assist in ending a life under the delusion of dignity of someone who has grown tired of inconvenience of suffering.
Make no mistake, monsters are real.
As for the walking dead…they are even more numerous than the monsters. These are the people living lives so caught up in sin they don’t even know they are “dead” in that sin. Walking the world as if nothing is wrong is wrong with them, rather something is wrong with you. Feeding on others not by eating brains but by spewing lies about God and faith; religion and goodness. So caught up in sin they, in fact, call good, evil and evil, good. The walking dead are those described by Paul in 2 Timothy as those who are “self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power.”
These are harsh words. There not my words (even the part about disobeying your parents!). These are God’s words and they are a reminder to us as followers of Christ that we don’t live our lives in obedience to our own will rather Christians live obedient to God’s will – it is only here that true freedom can be found.
The news so far here has not been very encouraging but as much as Paul gives us a warning to be wary of monsters and the walking dead today he gives us a remedy:
He says in the second reading “turn from everything and embrace Christ” – when he says he considers all in this world “loss” he is saying don’t fall pray to the destruction wrought by monsters and the walking dead but rather steal yourself – harden yourself – to things of Christ and let those things be our hope and salvation. To pursue maturity in the faith as the only thing that is worthy of our time and effort. To know the Lord and his suffering because it is only through his suffering that we can share in his crown. Paul considers the gain of our Lord is to gain everything we need.
I like to watch the Walking Dead because it reminds me to always be vigilant. To turn from sin and turn to the Lord is the only way not to be counted among them. Just like the words spoken at the empty tomb that first Easter morn, “Why do you look for the living among the dead – he is not here.
Monsters are real; and the Walking Dead is not just a TV show but we don’t have to be counted as either. As we approach Holy Week and Easter let us not only turn from our sin but as Jesus says in the gospel – “Go and sin no more” and let us capture the spirit of Paul forsaking everything to attain our share in the resurrection from the dead. There’s nothing scary about that. In fact, it’s really nothing short of glorious.
+ Dcn. Tom
14 February 2016