A Simple Truth
This following story is true. It occurred at 6:30 in the morning at a Las Vegas Blackjack Table. If that bothers you, I apologize, but sometimes God pokes his head into strange times and places.
I sat at the far end of the table. I won a little, I lost a little, but mostly I was just there. A woman came and sat down at the other end of the table. She was older, maybe 50s or 60s, but certainly not “old.” She made chit chat with the dealer, and eventually started talking about the casino nights they have at her church.
“What kind of church do you go to?” the dealer asked.
“I’m Catholic,” she said with a pause, “at least, I’m Catholic now but I’m pretty disappointed with the church.”
My ears perked up but I sat quietly to see what came next.
“Yeah, I’ve been a Catholic all my life too,” the dealer said, “I know what you mean.”
The woman started telling a long tale about her Priest, how he’s taken control of all of the committees of their parish. It sounded messy, the way that egos and personalities get involved and people get their feelings hurt.
The dealer reciprocated with some stories of his own. Eventually, the conversation died down and I felt that tiny impulse within me saying, “speak up.”
“How can I?” I wondered to myself, “what kind of light for Christ can I be at a blackjack table at 6:30 in the morning?”
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “You know what the good news is?” I asked. Both the woman and the dealer turned to me as if totally surprised I was chiming in.
“What?” they both asked.
“Jesus is there.”
Neither of them spoke so I went on.
“I can understand being frustrated with people and personalities but, despite all of that junk, it doesn’t matter because Jesus is there in the Eucharist. When I remember that, nothing else really seems to matter.”
The woman looked down at the table, then back up to reveal the tears welling up in her eyes.
“Thank you,” she said. “I needed that.”
After a couple of minutes, I left the table to head to my morning meeting. As I walked away, I heard the dealer start his sentence, “You know, he’s right, none of that other stuff does really matter…”
The church is full of imperfect people who act in imperfect ways. It’s full of the saintly and jerks just the same. It’s even full of plenty of people to populate a blackjack table on an early morning in Las Vegas. Despite the triumphs and failures of those who make up the church, it all boils down to one reality: the presence of Christ and the ongoing life and love of this Christ for his bride.