Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hocus Pocus

I looked at the blank stare from the elderly ladies in the nursing home and knew I just gave them more information than they wanted. The question was: “Where did that Bible come from?” And I went into a 15 minute historical recitative of the Bible and its origins. After the blank stares I asked “what?” She smiled and said, “I just wanted to know if you got that Bible from the desk over there.” I got it, but I didn’t get it.

I took my three kids and sat them down in the chaos that used to be our living room. I said that we have had lots of fun and I loved playing with them but now was the time for cleaning up, mom was coming home in about an hour and NONE OF US wanted the repercussions of mom coming home with the house looking like a tornado just went through. “So our Lego armies and airplanes had to have a final battle and put away, the toys needed ...” and I went on to explain what had to be done. We put our hands in the center of the circle and cheered: “Go TEAM!” I went to the kitchen to tackle the mess there while the three of them were to restore the living room. A half hour later they were still playing. So much for calm conversational compliance now came stark, strict instructions. They got it but didn’t get it.

“Daddy, why are they washing that baby? Didn’t they give her a bath at home?” said one of my kids trying to understand the latest baptism in our church. After explaining the spiritual significance of it all, he said, “They still could have done it at home.” He got it but didn’t get it.

Sometime in the 1500’s kids came to Catholic Mass to witness the priest in Latin saying “Hoc est enim corpus meum” which means “This is my body...” and it seemed magical to them how the bread turned into the “body” of Christ. As kids do: they played, practiced and perverted the Latin into (you guessed it) “hocus pocus.” The phrase turned into anything that will magically change from one thing to another, and eventually into something that “falsely” turned from one thing to another; a magician’s sleight of hand. They got it but didn’t get it.

They got but didn’t get it. It sunk in but not quite far enough for complete understanding. Sometimes we nod our head too soon. We tell others we understand when all we have is an unsteady grasp with mentally oiled hands. Many of the problems in our life are caused by us saying we understand – too soon.

STOP! Ask one more question to make sure. Repeat what YOU think they said to make sure that is what they REALLY said and not just mental hocus pocus. It would be better to understand now than to get into trouble when mom gets home.

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