Just call me Johnny; Johnny Cash. At a recent trip to the convenience store the young man behind the counter asked if I was a priest; he noticed the black I was wearing, but forgot to put in the little white tab collar that is the dead giveaway. I replied “No, I’m Johnny Cash.” (You must think I go to confession a lot for lying, and you wouldn’t be wrong.) He screwed up his face a little and asked, “Isn’t he dead?” Impressed that a millennial might know the “Man in Black” the reply was, “Yes, but now I’m better.” He squinted hard at me, fingers frozen over the fine filigree of financial numbers on the register; “Are you sure?” “Yes, you’re correct, I am a Catholic priest.”
The counter clerk seemed impressed and went on to relate the story of a Lutheran minister who had been in the store last week. When his total came up on the register it was 666. (Presumably it was $6.66; Lutheran ministers never pay more than ten dollars in a convenience store, at least that’s what the Methodist pastor told me.) The young clerk opined that it was strange the number should be of the satanic kind. “Well that depends on what he was buying,” says I. “Was it a copy of a girlie magazine?” The quizzical look returned, “What’s a girlie magazine?” Remembering that some of us are of a different and earlier millennia, I translated, “you know, soft porn.” “No, nothing like that and I’m not supposed to comment on customer purchases.” “OK, maybe some beer, wine, whiskey or, God forbid, a rock and roll CD?” “None of those things, just stuff.” “All right then, I think we can cross off his employer being the prince of darkness.”
This young man has a modicum of faith in something. In the Gospel for this Sunday [Mt22:1-14] the parable is of a king holding a banquet for his son but the ones were deemed worthy of invitation failed to attend. The king sent his servants out to gather all they could find from the main road, the bad and the good alike. Perhaps the clerk in the store is one of us who were dragged into the feast of the kingdom of God. He doesn’t have perfect faith (who does besides Our Blessed Mother?), but he believes in God. This belief, as rudimentary as it may seem, puts him at the same table with us. The key is to begin to change when called to the feast, to learn faith, to practice faith. If we just lounge at the feast without trying to follow Jesus closer day by day, we’re wearing the wrong wedding garment and are in danger of being expelled from God’s presence.
As I left the store, the millennial said, “Thank you, Father!” “No, please, call me Johnny.”