My family loves Mardi Gras parades. My husband, two sons and I return often to our hometown New Orleans so we can join this annual party. If you’ve never experienced a Mardi Gras parade, let me tell you it’s quite an interactive event. As floats roll through the streets, throngs of people line the route yelling, jumping and waving their hands in the hope of getting the “throws” that are tossed or more often hurled at the crowd by the masked riders. These “throws” are traditionally plastic bead necklaces, plastic cups, stuffed animals, plastic swords, and wooden spears; in other words, pretty worthless junk. I am not a fan of crowds so I prefer to stand back while most, including my family, push their way up screaming, “Throw me something, Mister!” It’s very entertaining to watch all the ways people try to get the attention of the riders and what lengths they will go to get this junk.
One year, an interesting revelation came to me when I noticed what often happens after the victor gains his treasure. Without even a backwards glance, the throw is tossed in a pile and forgotten. I realize that it’s not the throws but getting them that is the fun. The whole value of a throw then is the few brief seconds from when it is spotted in the rider’s hands until it makes into the victor’s grasp. After that, it reverts to junk and will soon be stuffed into a box and stowed in the attic or garage until an industrious spring cleaning day relegates it to the curb.
…which is just how Satan views our souls.
Satan will try any antic to get our attention and like a Mardi Gras throw, once he wins our souls we are tossed away never to be thought of again; left to the boxed confines of our sins. Because you see, the devil has no desire to spend eternity with us; he only wants to get us so he can make sure God does not. He hates God; we are simply a means to an end.
The good news is that the devil is not the only searcher of souls. Our Lord is there as He always is, waiting for us. But unlike that pile of beads that ends up in the trash bin, garages or storage sheds in New Orleans, He has wonderful plans for you and me. . .
I know well the plans I have in mind for you; plans for your welfare and not for woe. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Why then, if our Lord desires such great plans for us, do we more often feel as worthless as those discarded pair of plastic Mardi Gras beads?
“Christ Embracing St. Bernard” by Francisco Ribalta (16th-17th century)
I received the answer to that question over ten years ago when my choices had brought me to my knees lost, alone and weary from battling the grasps of darkness. My Lord came to me, picked me up, put His arms around me and loved me out of my debilitating depression. He promised I would never feel alone again as He gently led me back to His Church and my Catholic faith.
In my return to the faith of my youth that I so ignorantly dismissed as archaic and unnecessary for my happiness, I discovered that God does not want to get us, but rather He wants to be with us now and forever in the complete and continuous exercise of our free will. We cannot be passive and expect to find the joy we so desire. God wants us to want to be with Him and joins us in discovering our happiness through Church teachings, His word in Scripture, through the Sacraments and most significantly by joining our suffering with His in the Eucharistic Celebration of Mass.
God does not view our souls like cheap plastic beads to be tossed at the mercy of the rider, but rather active participants in His wonderful plans for our happiness. We have a choice in whose hands we land.
The devil could not care less whether we cooperate with him or not. Since the beginning he has lied and tricked to get his way like when he told Eve, “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil,” (Genesis 3:4-5) but failing to mention that along with the knowledge of evil will also be the desire for evil and the consequences to pay. He flat out lied when he told her you will not die. He will make any effort to grasp our souls and keep them away from God and His wonderful plans for us.
My Catholic faith has taught me that I am not to find happiness on my own and there are two good reasons why. Firstly, no matter how intelligent, educated, willing or brave any of us may be, we are no match for the cunning and sinister ways of the devil.
Secondly and so very wonderfully, that is not God’s plan for us. We need our God with us just as He has wonderfully planned, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I look toward the floats and imagine the people clamoring for God rather than throws. I see our Lord reach down and pull people up into His arms calling each by name. He searches the crowd and when our eyes meet, He holds out His arms for me.
I run to join the party.