… for [God] makes [the] sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
This passage from Tuesday’s Gospel reading always reminds me of a small work by one of my favorite twentieth-century theologians, Charles M. Schulz. The work in question shows Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy outside in the rain. As the two boys make their way indoors Linus quotes this Gospel passage, that God “causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust”, leaving Snoopy outside wondering, “But why on us in-betweens?”
Okay, so it’s not Thomas Aquinas. Still, for fifty years Schulz managed to pack a lot of spiritual insight daily into four small, simply-drawn comic panels. His expressions of faith touched thousands because they were disguised as simple stories about simple children with complex issues, and people could relate to them.
Kinda like how Jesus operated, back in His day.
All my favorite theologians are storytellers. I read C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein for their ancient worlds of magic and fantasy, and I see the Truths I hold most dear are as much at work there as in our own time. Walker Percy turns his physician’s eye on the modern human soul, diagnosing its internal maladies as well as the spiritual toxins so prevalent in the environment. Sherman Alexie tells the stories of our society’s poor, marginalized, and downtrodden — God’s own people in our midst — capturing all the joys and sorrows; good, bad, indifference; the beauty and the ugliness, love and anger of life, all without ever losing his sense of humor.
I was rediscovering my faith as a Catholic, even as my marriage was falling apart, when I discovered the works of Graham Greene. His characters — mostly marginal Catholics stuck in loveless marriages — somehow helped me make sense of my own situation. Greene has a way of plumbing the depths of human despair and showing God’s Grace working in the unlikeliest of lives. It helped me hang on to my faith through the most difficult and painful experience of divorce.
One of my favorite passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
God reveals himself to [us] through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos — which both the child and the scientist discover — “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wisdom 13:3)
“…which both the child and the scientist discover…” and I would add to that the creative artist, who must be part child, part scientist. These are the ones who approach their spirituality not from the lofty heights of a mountaintop or an ivory tower, but from within the confines of the messy, tragic, comic, beautiful, ugly, joyful, confused lives of ordinary people just trying to do the best they can.
Kinda like Jesus did.