When I was a little boy my dad used to cut my hair. I’d sit in a high chair and he’d shave me down almost to the skin. I’ve got a picture of him bending over me with the clippers. You can see my little toy gun sticking out of its holster underneath the towel he put over me.
When I was in high school of course everyone wanted their hair long. We all wanted to look like George Harrison in the Beatles, at least I did. There’s a picture of me in the yearbook with hair as long as dad would let me grow it, over my ears anyway. I’ve got fuzzy sideburns, too.
And then there’s a recent picture of me, in Jerusalem, at the church in the Garden of Gethsemane, kneeling by the stone where tradition says Jesus knelt the night before the crucifixion and asked that the cup might pass from him. I don’t remember who took it but he or she was looking down on me from above. You can’t see my face, just the top of my head, and the way I’m balding up there. I hadn’t realized this before, until I saw the picture. My hair is so thin on top you can see all the way to my crown.
And here’s the amazing thing. Here’s why I’m telling you this. Who cares about our hair? Your hair, my hair? Who cares about all the silly stuff in our lives? God does. Jesus does. He tells us so today, explicitly: “not a hair on our heads will be destroyed,” even in the midst of all our trials and tribulations, even at the end of the world. The amazing thing about our faith is the conviction that no matter what happens, God is with us—that Jesus himself is our truest and closest friend, unable to be bored by us, unable to be offended by us. Things willfall apart. The world willend, again and again. But God will never leave us, and we need never be afraid.
Here’s a lovely, lovely prayer by the seventeenth century Jesuit St. Claude de Colombiere:
Jesus, you are my true friend, my only friend.
You take a part in all my misfortunes:
You take them on yourself;
You know how to change them into blessings.
You listen to me with the greatest kindness
when I relate my troubles to you,
and you always have balm to pour on my wounds.
I find you at all times. I find your everywhere.
You never go away;
if I have to change my dwelling, I find you wherever I go.
You are never weary of listening to me.
You are never tired of doing me good.
I am certain of being beloved by you if I love you;
my goods are nothing to you,
and by bestowing yours on me you never grow poor.
However miserable I may be,
no one nobler or wiser or even holier
can come between you and me,
and deprive me of your friendship;
and death, which tears us away from all other friends,
will unite me forever with you.
All the humiliations attached to old age
or to the loss of honor will never detach you from me.
On the contrary, I shall never enjoy you more fully,
and you will never be closer to me,
than when everything seems to conspire against me,
to overwhelm me, and to cast me down.
You bear with all my faults with extreme patience,
and even my want of fidelity and ingratitude
do not wound you to such a degree
as to make you unwilling to receive me back
when I return to you.
Isn’t that at wonderful prayer? And here, listen to this, this final part of the prayer:
Jesus, grant that I may die praising you,
that I may die loving you,
that I may die for the love of you.