Sunday, August 1, 2021

Give Them Something to Eat Yourselves

 

Matthew 14 tells of the miracle of the loaves, where Jesus multiplied 5 loaves to feed five thousand --- or did He?  Yes, the miracle absolutely occurred, but note this posting’s title above.  First Jesus tells His apostles to feed them themselves, and they said in no way did they have enough food for the job --- but they did.  Those apostles took those loaves and handed them out, and there was more than enough.  They did it!

But… they didn’t do it alone.  Jesus first prayed over the loaves; He blessed and broke them and then handed them to His disciples.  The lesson here was that just as the Son of Man came to serve and not count the cost, so must His followers, and they must have faith.

How often do we “know” that we can’t do something, something that really should be done or perhaps someone who should be helped?  “It’ll cost too much,” or “it will take too much time”, or “we don’t know the answer” --- and so we never start.  Note that even Jesus started a large task by praying.  I think if we did that more often when we “know” something good can’t be done by us, we might be surprised by the results of OUR efforts.  If we seek to do as Jesus did, we will not be alone.  He will provide a good share of the money or time or answers --- and the results will be better than we could have planned alone.

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I wrote the above in the chapel, as I read my Gospel reading for the evening.  Coming home is when I saw it in a bit more expansive light.  Oh, certainly I often did what I said above, when I “knew” I couldn’t do something, and so never started.  But, I also recalled those occasions when I said “I know how to fix that” and my fix only made the problem worse, or made someone mad.  Whether I did or didn’t do something, I’ve often failed. 

But then I recalled a few more recent occasions.  Instead of seeing a big problem for me to tackle, the events started with a small thing.  It was kind of like I noticed that I needed to sew a button on my shirt, and when I went to do that, I noticed others were loose and needed sewing, and then I noticed that the shirt had some bad stains and wasn’t worth the effort, and when I went to the closet to get another shirt, I noticed most of them were stained or needed buttons.  What started out as a 10-minute chore would take weeks, but needed to be done.  I recalled, as I drove home from the chapel tonight, those occasions where I was asked to do a little good --- “Can you give this woman a ride home” --- and it was many months later, with prayers, and the help of many friends, that the real problem was identified and solved.  And the woman’s life was changed for the better.  But if I had known from the beginning what needed to be done, I very likely might never have started. God knows me and my pride, and so He started asking me to do the little thing.

What I’m saying is that God realized that I was prone to “know” what needed to be done, without ever asking His help.  I saw five loaves and said “I can’t do that.”  But God never asked me to feed five thousand, He just said “can you give a little food for that guy,” and I said yes.  And then with me, God gradually showed me the bigger problem, and solutions that He arranged.  I didn’t have to do it alone, as I assumed. 

And in those instances which I recalled tonight, the results were way better than anything I could have planned alone.  It was a pleasant ride home, as I recalled the good that WE did. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Love Acts

As I walked past the crucifix on the wall, I paused: “You know that I love You,” I said aloud.  I’m not sure if I was trying to remind Him, or me; I’ve said that hundreds of times.  But, tonight, almost as spontaneously, I heard myself saying further: “And people who love one another are friends.”  That gave me pause, and I smiled as I felt yes, we are friends.  And then again, almost out of the blue I said aloud: “And friends do things together.”  And that caused me to sit down.

Now I stared at the crucifix and contemplated my own words --- or were they?  My initial thoughts were that perhaps God was telling me I need to cooperate on some future opportunity He will provide, to love my neighbor as He would.  More than ever in my life I try to be open to His will, yet mine still overrides His so often, despite my efforts.  I can say with Jesus a million times “not my will, but Thy will be done,” but I can’t stop myself from quickly doing what I think best, often to my own benefit, not His.  But still I prayed: “I want to do Your will.  Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

But after a while sitting in the quiet, I had other thoughts.  In the past few days and weeks, I have had many people in need cross my path.  Most were almost strangers, yet I did what seemed necessary, immediately.  Some I gave physical aid, to some financial, for some I prayed, one I helped up from the floor, and another I hugged.  And one I sat by the bedside as she lay dying.  Looking back, I had thought that those were opportunities God gave me to love my neighbor, and so I did.

After tonight’s thoughts about loving God, being friends with Him, and that “friends do things together,” I realized I was remembering things I did in recent days wrongly.  I remembered them as actions I did, but in truth they were actions WE did, together.  God isn’t just with us when we speak to Him in front of a crucifix, or at Sunday mass.  He is with us and with every person we meet, an opportunity to love our neighbor, together.  All we need do is act on that opportunity, even with a smile.

Do you love God?  Are you friends with Him?  What have you done together recently?  Thank Him.  If you can’t recall anything, then resolve to start.  “Well, Lord, what should we do today?” is a good morning prayer.

P.S.  The people crossing your path are probably not like mine.  I am long retired and live alone.  My helping hand is available because I have lots of free time.  Most people have other commitments or vocations to live out, perhaps a good opportunity for them is to just take the time to hug their kids.  But He has shown us He wants us to love our neighbor ---- not ourselves alone. And love is not hormones reacting in us, love is something willed for the good of the other, for they are children of God.  Love acts.

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

What Does it Matter?

How often have you heard those words said?  How often have you SAID those words?  We want to see cause and effect, but sometimes the effect is not visible to us, or not in the way we wanted, so we go about pretending that our actions have no effect.  What does it matter if I go to church on Sunday (and why would you ever go on a weekday?).  What does it matter if I spoil my kids?  What does it matter if I give to this charity or that?  What does it matter what the schools are teaching our kids (and why should I waste my time going to a school board meeting)?  A friend told me how her children wanted her to say that all religions are relative --- how do you know you’re right and they’re wrong; what does it matter?

Today I heard the Parable of the Sower read at mass.  I’ve come to see an importance in that parable that is rarely spoken of.  The focus is often on where the seed hits, and what happens afterward, but what about the Sower afterward?  I’ve come to see that we are the Sowers of seeds, as in that Gospel.  We are going along our path of life sowing seeds --- in things we say, things we do, things we write --- and then we continue along our path.  Rarely do we see the results of those seeds, because we’ve moved forward and the seeds are back there.  On a few occasions I’ve seen great blessings have occurred to some people because of my sown seeds ---- often seeds I did not even know I was sowing!  I wrote a blog about some thoughts, and someone said it changed their life.  I gave a book to someone and 6 months later he thanked me greatly for what that book had done for him --- I no longer even knew his name or what book he was talking about.  And once, because of something I wrote, someone sent me an email when they were in great distress, and my subsequent actions saved their life.  That I became aware of those effects was a great blessing for me, but much of the good we do in life yields no effects that we see.

In Luke 16, the rich man didn’t care if Lazarus couldn’t get his food scraps --- what does it matter? --- but then Lazarus was in heaven and the rich man wasn’t --- and he begged Lazarus for even a drop of water.  Then he begged Lazarus to tell his brothers so they understood that their actions DO matter; they matter eternally. 

Another rich man made a large donation at temple, and a poor woman gave only two pennies ---- but God had seen that she had given more. 

It seems that more than ever people are saying that everything is relative; there is no truth.  What does it matter?  The Gospels don’t matter. But Jesus died for the truth.  His death mattered.  We must have faith.

We want to see the immediate effect of what we do, or else we think it doesn’t matter.  Sometimes it takes a long time before we see the effect of our actions, and sometimes only God sees them.  But if we live as Jesus died to show us how to live ---- love God; love your neighbor --- we can have total faith that our actions, our thoughts, our prayers do matter.  He said so.  I’m afraid many who stop doing good, who stop believing, who stop living a moral life will find themselves at some point crying out for a drop of water when they finally see the effect on which they placed no importance, on the truth they couldn’t accept on faith.  What does believing in Jesus and living a Christian life matter?  We each will find out.  And the Divine Mercy prayer is most appropriate:  Jesus, I trust in You.