Archive for the ‘7th Sunday’ Category

A Difficult Challenge! 2-24-2019

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

I find this Gospel very difficult. I say to myself – what a difficult challenge! What helped me were these two stories. Listen.
When Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency, one of his arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade Lincoln in the eyes of the public. So deep rooted was Stanton’s hate for Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance and sought to embarrass him at every point. But, in spite of this, Lincoln was elected the sixteenth president of the United States.
Then came the period when Lincoln had to select his cabinet, which would consist of persons who would be his most intimate associates in implementing his programs. He started choosing men here and there for the various positions.
The day finally came for Lincoln to select the all-important post of Secretary of War. Can you imagine who Lincoln chose to fill this post? None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate uproar in the president’s inner circle when the news began to spread. Advisor after advisor was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making a mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all the ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to sabotage your programs. Have you thought this through, Mr. President?”
Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr. Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he said about me. But after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an invaluable service to his nation and his president.
Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable things were said about him. But of all the great statements made about Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest. Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived and said, “He now belongs to the ages.”
If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of forgiveness Lincoln transformed an enemy into a friend. One simple act of forgiveness can change people’s lives. Are there any Stanton’s in your life right now?
Some years ago, a pastor in Boston was being harassed by a woman in his congregation. She started false rumors about him. She wrote vicious letters about him to his bishop and others. She initiated petitions to have him removed. After several months of this, the woman moved to another city and not long afterward was converted to Christ. Part of the process of her conversion was to realize the terrible wrong she had done and all the pain and suffering she had inflicted on her pastor in Boston. Consequently, she wrote him a long letter explaining what had happened to her and how deeply she regretted what she had done to him. The pastor immediately sent her a telegram with three words on it: “Forgiven, forgotten, forever!”
Is there someone we/you/me need to say those words to and mean them? Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever or do we want to live life like the trapped rattlesnake filled with resentment and bitterness and bite ourselves to death! I hope not. Lord help us!

Those People 2-19-2017

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

A school had organized a food drive. A teacher was looking at all that had been collected. Not just the usual mac-and-cheese donations, but some pretty high-end items filled the bins: gluten-free crackers, rice pasta, artichoke hearts packed with seasoned oil, and quinoa.
Another woman walked by, and seeing the items that had been donated, smiled and said, “Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it”.
The teacher asked, “What do you mean?”
“Those people won’t know what most of that stuff is. I mean, really, Quinoa?” The teacher had heard correctly: “Those people”.
The teacher knew “those people.” Eight months before she had been one of “those people”. It had been eight months since the last time she had gotten groceries at the local food pantry. Eight months since the long-overdue child support from her ex-husband kicked in. Even though it wasn’t much, it made the difference between being able to buy enough food for her and her family to make it through the week–and for that she was grateful.
“Those people.”
She remembered the first time she had gone to the food pantry. She drove by several times before working up the courage to pull into the parking lot. “I can’t” she whispered and went home – to the empty refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. Finally, desperation overshadowed pride.
“Those people.”
She finally walked through the door. She could feel the heat on her cheeks as she filled out the paperwork, telling complete strangers her life history, how much money she earned, and what she spent it on.
“Those people.”
She quickly learned that food pantries are hit-or-miss. Some days the shelves are full, and with really good things – and other days you can barely pull a few meals together from the dented cans and spoiled produce. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?
“Those people”.
She made five trips to the pantry over eleven months. When she told her kids, she expected them to laugh or get angry or be embarrassed. Instead, they helped her put the groceries away, quietly. She remembers all the meals she made with the food pantry items. Oven-roasted chicken with quartered rosemary potatoes. Turkey chili. French toast. More mac-and-cheese that she cared to admit. One of her favorites was an organic risotto, flavored with mushrooms and olive oil.
“Those people”.
She wanted to walk up to that woman in the hallway, grab her by the shoulders, and shake her: You don’t know a thing about how it feels to walk into one of “those” places and be one of “those” people. You’ve never looked at your kids and had to hide your tears because you had no idea how you were going to feed them”. But she didn’t. All she could muster was: “I like quinoa”.
If only she knew.

It’s not that we “hate” others: it’s our attitude of superiority over those who don’t measure up to our “standards” of what is good and right and correct, it’s that lack of respect and empathy for the poor that Jesus condemns. The Kingdom of God is first realized when we can see “those people” as our brothers and sisters, worthy not only of our help and understanding but of our respect; that, in their perseverance and courage as they struggle to make lives for themselves and their families, the love of God dwells in their midst, as well as ours. The Kingdom of God begins when we realize that “those people” are us.