A Psalm Ascends from a Sit-Com

Throughout the Easter liturgies, we’ve meditated on how God died as one of us so we could live in Him. Humanity has always yearned for union with His spirit, but nobody expressed that yearning more soulfully than Jesus’ earthly ancestor, David. His psalms evoke a love that transcends flesh.  This verse from Ascension Sunday’s mass speaks for all of us (Ps 27:1, 4, 7-8):

Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.

David’s psalms elegantly explain why we cling to faith in something we feel but can’t see. Here’s another example:

Mine eyes will ne’er behold which my heart doth see so clearly.
Inward stirs this passion, deep, beknighting, leading my path
away from all and to my love.

The miracle of this divine love is that it can be found anywhere—even while isolated in your living room, binge-watching your favorite TV sitcom. That was actually the source of the above sonnet. Carl Reiner, creator of the old Dick Van Dyke Show of the early 1960s, wrote it for an episode titled “The Life and Love of Joe Coogan.” In it, Rob Petrie finds this poem among a bunch of other writings his wife Laura has been saving in a shoe box. Their writer is Joe Coogan, an old pre-Rob flame of hers. Laura treasured the loving sentiments, believing she was their inspiration. In this episode’s surprise ending, a reunion with Joe reveals that he became a priest and that those writings were actually God-centered meditations that led to his vocation. This episode concludes with Rob reading the above sonnet to her in the new light of its spiritual intent—transforming it from a love letter into a prayer (this can be seen at the 23.30 mark in the Youtube video of this episode).

The poetry the writers introduced in this episode matches the longing we hear in Christ’s voice as he offers up this parting prayer for spiritual oneness among his fledgling Church—as reflected in Sunday’s excerpt from John’s gospel (Jn 17:1-11a):

“I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

That prayer is answered after his ascension with the descent of the Holy Spirit among Jesus’s loved ones as they gather in an upper room to binge-pray (from Sunday’s first reading, Acts 1:12-14):

When they entered [Jerusalem] they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Through the Holy Spirit that united them, Christ’s prayer has been answered thousands of ways as his voice resonates through generation after generation of the souls God gave him for safe keeping. The fact my family heard the voice of Jesus through the work of Carl Reiner—a self-professed Jewish-atheist-comedy-writer/producer—is a miracle in itself.  Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

–Tom Andel

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