by Tom Kluger.
During the late 1980s my brother Rob, a university student, got a nifty state of the art computer to help him with his architecture homework.
But I recall that computer, not for its ability to help design buildings, but for a game on it. That game, called A-10: Tank Killer, which we both loved to play, was one in which we blew up a lot of buildings and other things.
It was a realistic simulation, at least by the standards of those days, of an air force plane, the A-10, that was designed mostly to destroy enemy tanks, but also bridges and buildings.
A computer simulated "officer" would assign different missions, to destroy either enemy buildings or tanks. The officer would evaluate the performance at the end of the mission.
Rob and I, a couple of testosterone-soaked lads in our early twenties, thoroughly enjoyed competing for high scores on this new toy. I gave myself the name, "Death Wing."
One of the features of the game enabled you to set the plane on "invincible" mode, meaning that no missile, anti-aircraft fire or crash could stop your plane. You could bomb and fire away, safe from all harm. It sure was fun to fly around without any fear at all.
Years later, besides my being almost twice as old, many things in me have changed. To put it simply, I met God and Madonna House.
But some things had not changed, like the desire to soar aloft in the invincible mode.
I was, and still am, living in our mission house in Regina, Saskatchewan, where we run a soup kitchen for men. Last December, my desire for invincibility, never far in the background, seemed to be coming out more and more.
It was an especially busy and trying time generally, and one of the most difficult things of all was that, on some days, there was a very heavy atmosphere in the soup kitchen.
Part of that came from the racial and cultural tensions in Regina, which has the highest percentage of native people of any Canadian city. And I stand there, a white man from the suburbs of Toronto, in the awful gulf between natives and whites, feeling that I am standing—or falling—into the abyss of centuries of oppression, distrust, and hatred.
Not that there is much in the way of overt hatred, but there seems to be a chasm, unspoken but deep, between some of the younger natives and some of the younger whites.
Some of the atmosphere also has to do with the condition of some of the men. Some, both native and white, arrive in various states of inebriation; others are mentally ill.
One day, a schizophrenic man screamed at me at the top of his lungs and challenged me to call the police. Eventually he turned around and walked out, hurling obscenities at me as he went. During the past few days there had been similar encounters with him.
That man was mostly shouting and all theatrics, but I could not help but think to myself, what if some day I encounter someone who is going to go beyond words?
I was feeling naked and exposed. How I wished I could have been in invincible mode!
As Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, approached, I was forgetting that the One who chose to take flesh and be born among us came into the world in the "vulnerable" mode. Not to mention the ultimate vulnerability of his passion and death.
My heart and soul were in turmoil, and I felt anything but peaceful.
It was then that one of the men who eat here regularly, Bill—not his real name—gave me a small present. Bill, who comes on Mondays, likes to chat with us as well.
The present was a quote, John 14:24, laminated on a piece of wood. It read: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Bill, a devout Christian, then said to me, "I thought of giving this to you. Whenever I see you enter the dining room, I feel God’s peace enter here."
I was speechless. What I was experiencing in my heart when I entered the dining room was anything but peace. But here was a man whom I knew to be sincere and spiritually sensitive, who said that he felt God’s peace from me. I felt humbled, even chastened. I realized that I had put my own desire for safety over following in the footsteps of a crucified Lord.
I should have realized that when the Lord said to St. Paul, My grace is sufficient for you: for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), he had me in mind as well.
Jesus, my flight officer, let me know that his peace came through me only because I had "flown" for him in the definitely-not-invincible mode.
I felt that I had been led up Mount Tabor, not so much to behold the Transfiguration but more to be given a blinding glimpse of the obvious: Jesus would always get the high score, and Death Wing was to consider himself retired.
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