One of my favorite comic strips is Peanuts. And one of my favorite characters in the strip is Lucy Van Pelt’s little brother, Linus. Why? Because even though he’s quite the intellectual, Linus hangs onto his security blanket. And he does that because, deep down, he knows that he needs something bigger than himself to believe in. One writer said, “[Linus] can put life into perspective while sucking his thumb. He knows the true meaning of Christmas while continuing to believe in the Great Pumpkin.”
I can identify with Linus. And I think the Apostles could have identified with him as well. In the first reading for the Feast of the Ascension, we find the Apostles asking, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” The Apostles are still looking for something to believe in. They were expecting a “security blanket,” a warrior Messiah who would defeat their enemies. Having walked with him for three years, they still do not understand that Jesus must return to the Father, or what it means to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. They have witnessed Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Now he is sending them to witness to what they have seen “to the ends of the earth.” Yet here they stand, rooted to the ground “looking intently at the sky.” Jesus is gone and they have only the word of “two men dressed in white” to believe in. They were looking for the Great Pumpkin; they did not yet understand about Christmas.
Which brings me back to why I like Linus so much. Linus makes me feel better about my security blankets – family and friends, home and church, colleagues and collaborators, savings accounts and mutual funds, academic degrees and professional associations. Security blankets can be good things. In fact, many very smart people depend on security blankets such as these and believe in them every bit as firmly as Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin. Unfortunately, however, sometimes we become so dependent on our security blankets that – unlike Linus – we no longer remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.