Sunday, December 4, 2016

Who Did I Help?

The Bible Study guys didn’t seem to make much progress.  They spent the entire hour discussing only one sentence:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common;
and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to
all, as any had need.  
– Acts 2:45
The discussion quickly got past any notions of communism, and focused on the concept of “community”.  We discussed at length our cultures’ --- and our personal --- collapsing community.  We see it in families which can’t even find time to dine together, and full churches of people who don’t really know one another.  We discussed how “friends,” as spoken of today, are really more often “acquaintances.”  We actually have few friends.  And then we discussed things that friends do, as witnessed by the words in Acts describing the early Church.
At the bottom line, friends freely love one another, without counting the cost.  They freely give of their time and resources.  Each of the Bible Study guys had an example of someone in need they had helped, but all sadly admitted those were rare examples.  It doesn’t come easy to think of others first, especially strangers.
We discussed how sometimes our efforts to help our spouses or children too are unappreciated, and seem to yield no results, and we get discouraged.  Then we thought of St. Theresa and her efforts at helping the sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta.  Did they who may never have heard a kind word or felt a kind gesture in their entire lives respond to her with words of: “Oh thank you, Mother, bless you, or I’ll pray for you?”  That’s unlikely.  More likely she heard:  “Stop it.  Ouch!  Leave me alone!”  She’s thought of as being a saint not because of all those she helped --- the streets of Calcutta are still full of the sick and the dying --- but she’s thought of as a saint because of her loving efforts to help, even if she saw no great results, and because she trusted that God DID see results.
My contribution to the conversation was what happened over the recent holiday, on the day I arrived in Arizona.  One of the first things I did was go to the store to pick up those things I was discouraged from carrying on the plane:  aerosol cans for shaving cream and hair spray.  At the checkout line in front of me was a young couple, both of whom (by their actions, words and facial expressions) seemed to have some sort of mental disability.    And when they went to pay, the clerk told them their card didn’t have sufficient funds to pay the total.  This seemed to confuse them, and then they began to discuss what they “would have to put back.”  So I stepped up and offered to pay what they still owed.  They quickly said thank you, and went back to their discussion, as I paid their balance due.  I didn’t give a thought to their curt gratitude.  As I told the Bible Study guys, I’m not sure they knew or would later remember what had happened.  What WAS memorable, however, was the young checkout clerk’s reaction.  He seemed stunned that I willingly paid some few dollars to help my neighbor in need.  And as I checked out my few groceries, the clerk went on and on about what I had done.  It wasn’t until later, I told the Bible Study guys, that I realized that who I intended to help and who God intended to help through my efforts may have been different people, me to help the shoppers and Him the clerk.  Or, perhaps it was I who was meant to be helped, when God showed me that His intents were so much better than mine.
And so the Bible Study discussion continued on the path of how God uses our good intentions to love, often for better or bigger purposes than we can perceive.  And a lack of gratitude for our efforts, or a lack of results (as we see them) shouldn’t deter our efforts to love.  We just need to act in love, and trust God.
And then we remembered the man from long ago who chose to love in a great way, and no one seemed to understand HIS efforts at love, as He chose to die on the cross.
It was only one sentence in the Bible we studied, but from it we learned a lot, in time well-spent, one Friday morning last week.

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