Tuesday, January 24, 2023

When You're Talented ...


I’ve quoted from Wilfrid Stinissen’s book This is the Day the Lord Has Made (365 Daily Meditations) before, perhaps even the one I am going to quote below.  But it spoke to me today ---- and in case I didn’t get it, it seems the same message was just re-iterated as I am typing this.

External and Essential Talent (January 23rd)

A special talent in a certain area is usually interpreted as a sign that God wants the one concerned to evolve precisely in this direction.  God equips a person for the task he intends for him or her.  But what is most obvious in someone is not necessarily the most important.

… Jesus tried not to flaunt that he was divinely talented.  One could say that he refrained from what could have been called God’s periphery, that is his majesty, so as to more clearly show God’s innermost being, which is love.  Love does not want to be seen or dazzle; love wants to serve.

(In case you didn’t guess, that’s my underline, not the book’s).


I think that line is another reminder of: It’s Hard to be Humble.  It’s easier to think you know all things.  Like the shopping I did this afternoon, to ensure I had coffee for the people who will be coming to stay with me later this week.  So, I bought a couple of bags of coffee (with, of course, a shopping cart full of stuff I didn’t plan on buying).  Now I have the coffee, in the brand I like --- I made sure of buying that.

And what I just typed reminded me that I am out of fresh coffee right now, to have a cup as I type, so I stopped to make a fresh pot with the fresh coffee I just bought.  Only ….. did you know they also sell coffee “beans” in bags that look just like coffee “ground beans”?  Well, all the wisdom I have just got a little more wise, as it turns out I bought two bags of coffee beans, and I have never owned a coffee grinder.  So, no coffee tonight (or tomorrow morning), and I’ll have to dig out the receipt and march back to the store.

No, I don’t always dazzle everyone with my talents.

- - - - - - - - - -


Well, enough about my talents, or lack thereof.  Lately, I’ve been receiving notices from various charities telling me of my 2022 donations, for tax purposes.  I received one today from the Jerome Lejeune Foundation.  What was very notable was the simplicity and sincerity of their thank you letter, for my pitifully small donation.  And …. Also notable was their humility.  Unlike every other notice I received, they did not enclose an envelope to send another donation, nor did they even stress it in their letter.  And they enclosed a gift, a very practical one, in my opinion. 

“Dr. Jerome Lejeune discovered the extra chromosome 21 responsible for the condition known as Down-syndrome --- which he called Trisomy 21.  … Inspired by a deep belief that a cure for Trisomy 21 would one day be found and that medicine has a duty to serve society’s weakest members, Lejeune dedicated his life to research and caring for the intellectually disabled.” 

I have met many children and adults with Down’s syndrome.  One thing that stands out in my mind is how much they love everyone.  They are always happy.  My life --- and the world --- would be a poorer place without them.  Yet they are a major target of abortion seekers, and one country (Iceland) even brags that no people with Down syndrome have been born there ---- they have all been aborted.

I support the Lejeune Foundation and the homes they operate to house and love those with Downs syndrome, who no one else will care for.  The gift they enclosed with their donation notification letter was a small fold-out card, titled Thoughts by Jerome Lejeune, with his picture on the front.  It lists 21 thoughts he has relative to the focus of his life.  These are some of them:

-          Hate the disease, love the patient.  That is the practice of medicine.

-          Either we will cure them of their innocence, or there will be a new massacre of the innocents.

-          We will beat this disease.  It’s inconceivable that we won’t.  It will take much less intellectual effort than sending a man to the Moon.

-          Ending an inconvenient life is a terrible thing.  And age is no protection against this threat.  The elderly are as much at risk as our youngest children.

-          We call on all people of good will to ensure that health protection is grounded in a renewed spirituality.  Every patient is my brother.

You can order free copies of this brochure at contact@lejeuneusa.org, or visit their website at jeromelejeune.org.  (And you might make a donation while you’re at it ---- that’s my opinion, not theirs). 


Sunday, January 22, 2023

I Yam Who I Yam


I was stepping into the shower when the words came to me: “I yam who I yam.”  I know I heard them before, with their slang-ish pronunciation.  Where did I hear them?  Was it Popeye?  It sounds like something The Sailor Man would say.  Or was it Bluto, who spoke so naively?  And why did those words come to me, now?

As I showered and pondered, I smiled: “Well, whoever ‘I yam’, I am changing, by making myself cleaner.”  Maybe that simple thought was a good insight.  Whoever we are doesn’t mean we can’t change.  The Church teaches we are all called to grow in holiness, to become more Christ-like.  Perhaps some of us have been “who we are” for so long that we think change is impossible, so we stopped trying.  “I am a sinner in the eyes of the Church, it’s just who I am, but I believe God will save me.”  Well, regardless of what you may believe, that’s not what He said.

The Bible in a Year podcasts did a good job of explaining what Scripture says.  This year’s Catholic Catechism in a Year podcasts are explaining how words of Scripture and Tradition (which preceded written Scripture) underpin the Church’s teaching of how we should live, and why.  The first week of the daily Catechism podcasts was rated number one in the world, of any podcasts, on any subject.  People are hungry to understand.  They are hungry to see the world and their lives as they are, and as they should be, AND, why.  The catechism will provide them the soap they need to start cleaning up their lives, and make this world a better place.

I was told how the windshield of every car has lots of streaks and splotches, but we often don’t notice or pay any attention to them.  But, if we are driving into the sun, they stand out and even seem to glow --- and they are very irritating to us.  That too is a good analogy of our sins.  We often don’t notice them, or if we do, we don’t care.  “It’s just the way I am.”  But if we turn toward the light, they seem to suddenly stand out, and irritate us.  And that is a good thing.  It means we are looking at the Light; it is an incentive to change.  We want to get clean.  Even if it is irritating at the start, to see how far we fall short of who God created us to be, the irritation and the incentive to change is a blessing.

“I yam who I yam” are the words of someone in the dark, who hasn’t yet seen the light.  We can be their light.  Oh, one more thing, which I learned at my Bible Study class:  Light is silent …. But it lets them see.

The Holy Spirit and grace are the soap to help us to begin to clean up our act.  Whatever we are, we can change. And God said: “Let there be light.”

Friday, January 20, 2023

Life is Not a Game

 A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a computer game titled Bubble Shooter.  Skipping more mentally challenging games (which I sometimes visit to exercise my pea-brain), I turned on this simplistic, rote-played, bubble game.  In the game, the top of the screen has an array of connected bubbles, each one of 4 colors, and the bottom has a single-colored bubble which you aim, to hit a similar colored bubble above.  It’s pretty much a simple game for children, until --- I noticed some patterns and ways you could hit more bubbles, until your limited number of shooter bubbles runs out.  And then, I further noticed that you could begin to analyze sequences of the differing colors of the shooter bubbles, and plan even further ahead based on likely outcomes.  And, while it now becomes a more thinking, strategic game, you can’t let yourself ignore the game basics: you are aiming one bubble to hit another, and if you don’t focus enough on the simple act of aiming, you miss, and waste one of the limited number of shots available during the game.

I’ve come to realize that the bubble game could be simply played by a very young child, or strategically played by a sharp-minded adult.  And then it happened today:  I suddenly saw the relationship of how this game is played, to how we live our lives: very simplistic, follow-the-rules, follow others, or ---- having a keen focus on the end goal, and realizing that the limited time we have and how we play the game will affect the final outcome.  And in life, that final outcome is heaven or hell.

            I’ve had some wonderful conversations with friends in recent days and weeks.  We’ve noticed the workings of the Holy Spirit in the world, in the lives of others, and as we better focus on prayer, hearing Him in our own lives also.  The word “joy” comes to mind today; it’s the best word I can use to describe the feeling you get when you see God in action all around you.

In a recent podcast, Fr. John Riccardo (now of ACTS XXIX) told how Jesus recently spoke to him, telling him how his life is NOT a game (as I just described) but a story, the story of the world, a sometimes-scary story in which he has a role. But Jesus told John to relax, and just do his part.  “I wrote the story; you know it has a happy ending.  Trust me.”

There is one key point to note here:  The story God wrote has God as the author; He is in control of the outcome.  If I choose to live my life as a game, I act as if I am in control of the outcome.  The unifying factor between what I try to do and what God created me to do is grace.  Through the grace of God (and His mercy), I can better see the life-path intended for me, my part of the story, and then choose to live it.  Grace moves me from the realm of sensual choices --- what “feels good” as in a game, to spiritual choices, what IS good for me, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel so good.

Yes, we were created in the story of God’s creation as free being; we can choose how to live our lives.  We can play life as a simple game, follow the basic rules, and just enjoy ourselves.  But there is a bigger story than just our lives, and we are part of that bigger story.  We were written into it --- we have a role to play, a purpose in the bigger story of creation, to help bring it to a happy ending, for all involved, and most especially a happy ending for the Creator of the story.

If we don’t do something good with our lives, we’ll just be written out of the final story, and not be part of the happy ending.  We’ll miss out on the final grand celebration, where everyone “lives happily ever after”.  God wrote the book of creation, but we can choose to be part of the happy ending with everyone, or we can choose to live our life as a game, content to do simple little things as we want, alone.

Life, REAL life, is not a game, and was not given to be played alone.  Life was created to be lived in community, family, interaction with God and others, where we choose with grace (through our focus and actions) to love God and our neighbor.  We know how to live life as it should be lived; He came and lived the lead role in His Book to show us how we should play our part.  And if we should be proud of anything, it is that He created us in His image. We shouldn’t worry that life is hard; we were made for this story.  Just study the role the Creator, Jesus, played in it; He’s leading the way, as a Good Shepherd, and “you know the story has a happy ending”.