Sewing Hope Into Broken Hearts
March 29, 2018

Reach for Heaven, Not for Leprechauns

Our entire seventh-grade class had been warned about our behavior. Instead of posing for a picture, we decided to play a pickup game of basketball in the gym. We were reprimanded for being disobedient and defiant during our opportunity to take the traditional “incoming eighth graders class photo.” Our teacher, Mrs. Cullen was not only angry at our insubordination but also perturbed that in the one photo she managed to take she thought we looked like “disheveled hooligans” instead of “nice Catholic school children.” Clearly, our picture was not making it into the St. Patrick’s Easter bulletin.

Now that she had managed to gain control of us again, we were about to be walked back to her classroom for more academic enrichment. Many of us, myself included, still had “the naughty giggles” and some leftover energy from our unfinished game of basketball. This being evident, she said, “anyone who makes a sound on the way back to class will be punished”, as we started walking.

Personally, I was silently ruminating about the basketball game and reliving some of the plays I made (or lack thereof). As we passed through the corridor, I spotted the paper leprechaun crafts the second graders made hanging from the drop ceiling. This happened to coincide with the thought that I might be better at basketball if I had more practice. Pretending that one of the little Irish mythical creatures was a hoop, I jumped up and touched his legs. As I landed back on the ground, my sneaker made a loud squeak. The line came to a screeching halt, Mrs. Cullen glared back and seeing the leprechaun doing the jig above my head raced back to confront me. “Mr. Snyder,” she said in a hasty angry tone, “you will write a 250-word essay on why not to touch someone else’s leprechaun, due in first thing in the morning signed by a parent.”

Several thoughts went through my head in rapid succession. Dang, I got caught, now I’ve got more homework. I thought leprechauns were supposed to bring good luck - you sir are not lucky. Did she really just ask me to write an essay about why not to touch leprechauns? So I asked, “Mrs. Cullen, I just want to make sure I heard you correctly, you want me to write an essay on why not to touch someone else’s leprechaun?” My English teacher was surprised by my question. Aware she had misspoken, but reluctant to give in she briefly paused. Unable to come up with a witty response on her own and unwilling to invoke the intercession of the clever mythical leprechauns dangling over her head for help, she replied “Yes! Due tomorrow!” and stormed back to the head of the line. Leaving me to ponder how I might satisfy this requirement.

After school, I informed my mother of my creative writing assignment. We both had a good laugh as she read the most exquisite two hundred and fifty words I’ve written to date. My mother autographed the handwritten theme, and said “good luck.” The near pointless exercise ended the next morning as Mrs. Cullen without reading a single word ripped up the essay and threw it in the trash.

As I reflect upon the most memorable writing assignment I’ve ever received and the circumstances surrounding it, I believe it can serve as a reminder during the Easter triduum to look at each other from the cross.

Jesus was sinless but chose to be treated like a sinner. He subjected himself to ridicule, torture, and excruciating death to redeem us because being God He could see and remained focused on our potential, not our weakness while on the cross. Do we deserve Hell for our sins? Unequivocally, yes we do. Without the merits of the Paschal Mystery, I would end up in Hell for touching someone else’s leprechaun in seventh grade, and that isn’t even the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. But Jesus saw me in defiance reach for the mischievous midget hanging from the ceiling, and took the punishment for the sin by hanging on the cross, saying I’ll take the bullet for this one and every one of your sins. Say you are sorry with all your heart and don’t do it again. That is the meaning of repentance.

Our eyes, however, get blinded by pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, and greed, and we miss the opportunity to show love and mercy. Writing a 250-word essay about being disobedient might have been more appropriate and ultimately bore more spiritual fruit in the long run. Pride and anger got in the way, clouding judgment. It voided the opportunity for personal and spiritual growth for both my teacher and myself instead of rendering it a funny story I’ve been telling for years.

I share this to remind you that Jesus came to earth with a purpose. He came to redeem your soul, to teach virtue, and establish the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. He isn’t a magical creature and doesn’t hand down arbitrary assignments, rather He calls you to live an abundant life. He has charged you with a mission that only you can complete, and, as the Son of God, gifted you with the abilities, talents, and skills to accomplish it. It’s for this reason he deeply loves you and redeemed you, gazing on your potential and beyond your weaknesses from the Cross.

This is the bold love we are called to imitate on Easter. So don’t spend your life trying to touch somebody else’s leprechaun, you were made for so much more. Even more importantly lead others to heaven, not to a pot of gold or the fantasy of instant gratification. Doing this will help you live an abundant life now and forever.