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What’s happening with the mail?

For the past few months, many people have asked “what’s going on with the mail?” Good question! People have offered a lot of opinions.

Of course, there are also the unprintable words uttered when a Christmas card sent in early December finally arrived in late January. Or worse, a Social Security check that did not arrive before food supplies ran out or rent was due.

What I do know is that we have come a long way from the 1914 inscription on the New York City General Post Office. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” The words have long been associated with the American postal worker.

Another thing I know is that we have inherited many ways of speaking that have their origins in the United States Postal Service.

  • “Return to sender”
  • “Damaged in transit”
  • “Returned for insufficient postage”
  • “Undeliverable at this address”
  • “First class mail”
  • “Junk mail”
  • “Priority mail”
  • “Receipt requested”
  • “Special delivery”

Some of these are actually used as a kind of shorthand to describe aspects of communication. Think of “special delivery”.

The God Game

Then I remembered one of my former colleagues in the Theology Department at St. John’s University. Jim Reese, a Sulpician, was a top tier scripture scholar. But I will always remember him as a profoundly spiritual person.

He once shared with me a game he played in prayer. He used his dictionary as an aid to prayer! Opening up to a random page, he would choose a random word and think about what aspect of God it expressed. When I thought about it I realized it was a way rooted in Scripture.  The scriptures are filled with phrases like “God is a “rock”, “fortress” etc.

I invite you to play this game with me.

A different kind of Gmail

Right off the bat, I thought of a different kind of Gmail… God’s mail. That sent me on a journey through the corridors of postal language.

Who delivers God’s mail? Of course, the biblical prophets came to mind. But Jesus himself was the ultimate mail from God. He was also God’s personally chosen delivery person!.

But let’s go further…

  • Aren’t the words of scripture God’s mail?
  • How often do we check for mail from God?
  • Would we recognize God’s mail in the example of another person’ life… and suffering?
  • Do we just let it pile up in our mailbox?
  • How often do we treat God’s mail as bothersome “third class mail” or “junk mail” to be discarded without opening?
  • How often is God’s mail returned to the sender?
  • How often does God’s mail get mangled in transit?
  • Why do we miss God’s “telegrams” or “instant messages”?

Then there is the mail we send to God. We call them prayers.

  • Why are we so much better at sending God mail?
  • Are we Christmas-card Catholics who send  generic “Season’s Greetings”?

Finally, do we think of ourselves as God’s delivery persons? Are we the reason God’s mail gets damaged in transit?

When it comes to being God’s delivery persons for “good News” would people think of us in terms of the unofficial Postal service motto…

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

I invite you to spend some time thinking about how you receive God’s mail… and how you are God’s mail

PS Just this morning I heard another scripture scholar, Fr. Pat Griffin, CM, give a marvelous presentation on The Psalms: 150 Conversations with God. It will shortly be available on the website of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society.

Click below for and audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

What’s happening with the mail?