Holy Week in the Secular World

by C. A. Jude Stewart

I got this big-azz Bananarama Bush blooming in my backyard. Previous owner said he left it to me as a gift, which was nice of him to do, since I’m still waitin’ on my 1st banana.

Being a devout, God-fearin’ Catholic Yankee gardener new to the soil-rich ways of Deep South horticulture, who was I to argue  — much less ask impertinent agricultural questions like ‘is that really a Banana Bush, or a Home Depot facsimile? ‘— over such a potentially tasty backyard bonanza?

After all, why kick a gift horse in the mouth, since quality-bananas run $3 a pound these days?

Hell, if my BananaRama crop hit overdrive, I’d set up a fresh-fruit booth on Mobile Highway or Blue Angel Parkway to compete with the Georgia peach, ‘Bama pecan or Cuban cigar sellers (now legal, since Pope Benedict XVI’s High Fives-2-Fidel visit to downtown Havana recently).

It’s a sturdy Bananarama Bush, having survived Ivan in 2004. Nearly 8 feet tall with 5 foot leaves, BB is a majestic reminder of nature’s ultimate dominion over man, woman & spoiled-brat chillens.

I love this goofy old plant on the northwest/waterfront side of the property, just behind my garage. The lakeside ducks, pelicans & herons usually sun themselves or take afternoon naps in BB’s shadows, much to my delight. Sometimes I’ll share a cold Budweiser or frosty Coors Light with ’em, just to keep ’em from poopin’ on my deck.

The neighborhood kids love BB, too. But they have higher expectations, especially with the onset of Spring: where’s the bananas, Mister Stew? can we have one?

And the killer line by a 3rd-grader, after Palm Sunday Mass last Sunday, April 1: “why the leaves so big, & the bananas so invisible?”

Now there’s a sharp-eyed future FBI or Pensacola PD detective in-the-making. “I dunno where the bananas are, kid. I’ve been waitin’ 4 years, so I suspect they’ll arrive any day now.  ANY……..(snooze)……DAY….(snore)….NOW.”

Truth be told, not one damn banana came off those branches since ’09. So how can a plant be called a BB, when I’m still waitin’ on my batch of ‘nanners to decorate my much-craved, non-Sonic banana splits?

In a number of ways, my BananaRama Bush is a perpetual reminder of the Easter promise to the world’s one-plus billion Catholic, Christian, Evangelical & Orthodox believers: salvation is found in the FAITH (God’s internal direction/grace), not necessarily in the FRUIT (worldly pleasures, gifts, delights, rewards) of Christ’s resurrection.

Faith is what ultimately SUSTAINS us (spiritually), while money & work is what MAINTAINS us (materially).

To the atheist, agnostic, heretic, unbeliever or apostate, Holy Week is irrational, a waste of time, a goofy existential joke played on the duped proletariat, the dim-witted, illiterate social outcasts & economically deprived masses.

The entire “Palm Sunday-Holy Thursday-Good Friday-Easter” Holy Week spiel is an anti-intellectual farce, a weak-kneed, feeble fabrication of religious imagination, exalting a long-dead, Mideastern, itinerant Jewish teacher / preacher who never wrote a book, much less a best-seller; never led a political party or army, much less an empire; never sired a son, much less a familial dynasty; never made money, much less created a lasting fortune like a Rothschild, Medici, Harriman, Rockefeller, Getty, Mellon, Gould, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Walton, Hewlett, Packard, Buffett, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Gates.

But the story of Jesus (“Christ” meaning “anointed one”), his crucified death & divine resurrection gave birth to the greatest revolution in human history, as impactful recently in Pensacola (in the beautiful demonstrations of lasting love, respect, honor, compassion, friendship, community & character shown one another), as anywhere else.

Christ’s spirit of love, service & transcendent compassion was present at recent local events like the Trayvon Martin dialogue at Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church; the Pensacola Open Championships at Roger Scott tennis courts; the Friday Lenten Meals served at St. Joseph’s Church; Pensacola Beach’s Saturday night “Bands on the Beach”; Elberta (AL)’s legendary “Sausage Festival”; the Blue Wahoos’ welcome at Pensacola Airport (and 1st baseball season—thanks to Quint & Rishy Studer, among others — beginning today 4/5 at Maritime Park); the Olive Baptist Church’s coordinated Christian food/clothing outreach last Saturday 3/31 at Lexington Terrace Park, attended by thousands of needy folks at 900 S. Old Corry Field Road; and finally, Palm Sunday services celebrated in the Panhandle’s hundreds of beautiful, welcoming, singing churches, commemorating the day Jesus entered Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago, to fulfill what the prophets predicted.

In that ancient city, capital of 3 world religions, Christ met his fate, betrayed by treacherous Judas Iscariot, via crucifixion, in a place called Golgotha (“place of the Skull”). The anonymous Roman centurion bore witness at the Cross, as Jesus died: “Surely, he is the Son of God.” As nature went wild, blackened skies & furious storms exploded over the chastened city.

An unbeliever, how did a Roman centurion understand what nobody else around him did?

God’s Grace, humility, faith, is how.

3 days later, the rock rolled back from the burial tomb. Jesus arose. And with him, Catholicism & Christianity in his wake. On the Cross, he bore the rebellious, stained world’s sin. In the Resurrection, he gives us hope that salvation transcends this mortal coil, that there is a greater state beyond our earthly, temporaral, Banana Republican one.

Yes, I still believe a banana will eventually sprout from my backyard BananaRama Bush.

Yes, I still believe in a Christ who embraced a most painful death at the hands of Roman tyranny, to eradicate the world’s sin, in order that we — singly & collectively — shall one day embrace an eternal bliss, eternal joy, eternal subliminity far beyond our Vegas pleasures & vulgar self-indulgences.

And yes, in Heaven, banana splits are on da House!  Happy Easter to all—believer & apostate, alike.

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