Jesus is back.
This time, instead of appearing in a tortilla or a fabric softener stain, He's chosen a ceramic tile at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport as His stage. The Christ's bearded visage is facing east in a floor tile at a security checkpoint in Terminal Three, home to American, Delta, and Frontier Airlines; apparently Jesus flies coach, as He's nowhere near the First Class Passengers Only sign there. How like Him!
My friend Jim, who's works for TSA at Sky Harbor, told me about Jesus. I've known Jim since 1974; we even attended Mass together sometimes when we were little kids and both still Catholic, so I knew he was dead serious when he told me that Jesus' face had appeared in the floor of his workplace. I hurried down there, and let me tell you something: As apparitions of Jesus go, this one's pretty cool. He looks a little bit more like the Zig Zag Rolling Papers man than other Jesuses I've seen, but it's definitely Him.
None of the TSA workers seemed all that interested in talking to me about Jesus. One of them said, "Yeah, it kind of looks like God, I guess," when I pointed out Tile Jesus. "All I know is, we've sure had some weirdos around here, ever since it showed up."
I struck up a conversation with one of those weirdos, an unemployed dental hygienist named Becky Martin, who was sitting against a nearby wall reading a Donna Fleisher novel when I introduced myself. "It's definitely Our Lord Jesus Christ," she told me. "He appears to us from time to time in ordinary places, to remind us that He is here with us always, being our spiritual guide."
"Couldn't He just send an occasional telegram?" I asked.
Becky was quick with an answer. "No," she said. "If He did, everyone would just think it was a fake, and His message would not be taken seriously."
"And so He appears in a floor tile instead."
"Well, a while ago He appeared on the window of the Hard Rock Café somewhere in California," she reminded me.
"And what about that guy in Ohio who saw Jesus in a bird dropping on his windshield?" I asked Becky, excitedly.
"I don't know," she said, then frowned. "I've never been to Ohio."
It turns out that Becky has come to Terminal Three every day for two weeks--ever since she first heard about the Holy Apparition. She sits nearby, usually on the floor and sometimes drinking an iced latte, watching to make sure no one steps on Jesus' face.
"Will you eventually give up and go home?" I asked her. "Security is pretty weird about people hanging around here all day."
"I'll stay as long as Jesus stays," Becky assured me.
"You mean He'll eventually leave?"
"Oh, sure," she assured me. "These apparitions disappear as quick as they come."
"God moves in mysterious ways," I replied.
"His wonders to perform!" Becky exclaimed happily.
I didn't know what to say next, so I said, "Jesus, Jesus, Bo-Besus, Banana-fana Fo-Fesus, Me My Mo Mesus, Jesus!"
Becky frowned again, then went back to sit down against the wall some more. On my way out to the parking garage, I called my pal, Father John Shetler. He's an old friend of our family, and I wanted him to tell me the Catholic Church's official position on Jesus turning up in cumulus clouds and slices of toast.
"The Church doesn't automatically put its seal of approval on every apparition," Father John told me. "They typically wait a few years before weighing in on its significance."
Some apparitions are more significant than others, according to Father John, who knows from Jesus-driven miracles: On a recent trip to Medjugorje, his rosary changed colors right before his eyes. "For example, the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe led to a conversion of souls, meaning more people in that part of the world became Catholic after seeing the apparition."
So maybe Jesus appearing in a tile at Sky Harbor could lead to a lot of coach-class Jews converting to Catholicism? "Actually, I think this is more about you," Father John replied.
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"You left the Church a long time ago," Father John reminded me. "I'm guessing that this apparition is directed at you, personally. I think Our Lord is trying to get your attention."
But Father John must be mistaken. I only ever fly United.