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Fr. Andrew Greeley, the noted Chicago priest and author, told an interesting story, one he may well have told again on this day after the election and in the midst of an enduring and horrific pandemic. 

Once upon a time a young man, who had been reportedly killed in action, came home from a prisoner of war camp very much alive. His family, his buddies and even his girlfriend had mourned him as dead and then more or less got over their grief. His sudden reappearance was disconcerting, to say the least. They had all loved him, but they had in effect written him out of their lives. His girlfriend was engaged to marry someone else. Moreover, he didn’t seem like the boy who had gone off to war. He was now thin, haggard and haunted.

However, he was now mature, self-possessed, and, astonishingly happy. He hadn’t smiled much as a kid and rarely joked. Now he was witty and ebullient all the time. A quiet kid had become an outgoing adult man. And he didn’t fit into the patterns of relationships he had left behind. Quite the contrary, his happiness and maturity were unsettling. He congratulated his former girlfriend on her upcoming marriage and he shook hands cordially with her fiancé.

There’s something wrong with him, everybody said. His family went to see the priest. And the priest concurred, “There sure is something wrong with him,” the priest said. “He has risen from the dead and now acts like a saint.”

Why is it that severe hardship has to cripple us psychologically, emotionally and spiritually before we talk, act and live as we should?  This past year because of the heated election and the terrible pandemic, so many people I have known for a lifetime have spoken and behaved like anything but a saint. They have become persons I hardly recognize anymore. All they want to talk about are their enemies and their adversaries.

Whatever happened to talking about people as their neighbors and friends? I think we should all go back to our worn-out catechisms and bibles and start learning our faith and our values all over again from scratch.  

On this day after such a highly contested election and with Covid-19 still spreading all around us, we need to see ourselves as someone who has come back from a prisoner of war camp. Like the soldier in Greeley’s story, we need to rise from the dead and start talking and acting like a much better person than we have been this past year. 


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