Posts Tagged ‘Year A’

In today’s gospel we read:

“Your light must shine before all,

so that they will see the good things

you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

From a book called “Out of the Saltshaker

by Rebecca Pippert, (Intervarsity Press, Downer’s Grove IL)

comes this true story

of an unusual young man.

John was in his final year of college.

He was a brilliant new Christian

and a bit different from other students.

His entire wardrobe for four years

consisted of a T-shirt, blue jeans

and no shoes.

Across the street from the campus

was a very conservative church,

attended by well-dressed parishioners.

One Sunday,

John padded through the front door.

The service had already begun;

John walked slowly down the aisle,

searching for a seat.

As he neared the front, it became clear

that no empty seat was available.

So John squatted on the floor

in front of the pulpit.

While this was acceptable in a dorm,

it was hardly acceptable in this conservative church.

You could feel the people glare.

Even the pastor stopped preaching,

wondering what to say or do.

Just then, a deacon in his eighties –

dressed in a tailored suit

and using a cane – began to walk

from the back of the church

down to where John was seated on the floor.

All eyes were focused on the deacon.

His cane clicked with each slow step.

He was a dignified man with silver hair,

respected by all.

How could someone like him

understand someone like John?

As the deacon reached the spot

where John sat,

Eeeryone stopped breathing.

What he was about to do

was a thankless job, but it had to be done.

Even the pastor stopped preaching

until the deacon completed his task.

Looking down at John,

the Deacon dropped his cane to the floor.

Then, with great difficulty, he eased down

onto the carpet and sat beside John.

He wanted to make him feel welcome

and not have to worship alone.

When the pastor gained control of himself,

he said to the congregation,

in a voice choked with emotion:

“What I have prepared to preach to you,

you’ll never remember.

But what you just saw,

you’ll never forget.

This story fits in beautifully

with today’s Gospel where Jesus says:

“No one lights a lamp and puts it

under a bowl; instead it is put on

the lamp stand, where it gives light

for everyone in the house.

In the same way your light must shine

before all, so that they will see

the good things you do and

praise your Father in heaven.

Someone has pointed out

that there are three motives why people

do good things – such as the deacon did:

pleasure, practicality or pure love.

Let’s take a look at each:

first, pleasure.

In his famous Christmas Carol,

Charles Dickens describes how

Ebenezer Scrooge responds to people

after his conversion. Dickens says:

He went to church. . .

And patted children on the head

And questioned beggars. . .and found

That everything could yield him pleasure.

He never dreamed. . .that anything. . .

Could yield him so much happiness.”

People have felt the same way when they’ve

volunteered to help out in prisons,

soup kitchens or retirement homes.

And so the first motive why people

do good things is because it makes them

feel good. It brings them pleasure.

The second motive why people

do good things is out of practicality.

A politician once said:

“Love your enemies, because someday

you’ll need them as friends.”

That is clearly a practical motive.

Martin Niemoller was a Lutheran pastor.

When the Nazi’s came to power,

he was reluctant to speak out at first.

When he did, he was arrested and jailed.

He said in a famous statement:

When the Nazi’s came for the communists,

I didn’t speak out

because I wasn’t a communist.

When they came for the Jews,

I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. . .

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak out

because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me. . .

and by that time

there was no one left to speak for me.”

So the second reason for doing good is

practicality: If I want others to help me,

I’ve got to help them.

This brings us to the final reason:

pure love:

the reason the deacon

sat on the floor with the college student.

He probably got no pleasure out of it,

nor was there much John could do for him.

He simply did it because it was right.

He wanted to make John feel welcome

and be treated in a loving way.

People who do good things

usually pass through three stages.

First, there is the fun stage.

That’s when they say, “I love doing this.

Why did I wait so long to get involved?”

Next, there’s the intolerant stage.

That’s when they say,

“Anyone who doesn’t get involved

isn’t really a true Christian.”

Finally, there’s the reality stage.

That’s when they suddenly realize

that their involvement

is only going to make a dent

in the world’s problems.

At this stage, saints are made.

So what motivates people

to do good things

follows a pattern similar to what

is said generally, about commitment.

First, it’s pleasurable.

It makes us feel good.

Second, it’s practical.

If we help others, they’ll help us.

Finally, it’s out of pure love.

It’s why the deacon helped John.

Let’s close with a prayer

attributed to St Ignatius Loyola.

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me

to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to toil and not to seek for rest;

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except to know

That I am doing your will. Amen.


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Advent II – Year A

ADVENT II – year A

In 1911 captain Robert Scott

and four other British explorers

set out on foot for the South Pole.

They travelled 800 miles

through deep snow and bitter cold.

A year later they reached the South Pole.

But on their return journey,

their glorious victory turned into bitter defeat.

Two men died along the way.

The other three froze to death

just a few miles from safety.

When the bodies of the men were found,

the last words that each had written

were still readable.

One of the men was Bill Wilson,

the doctor of the expedition.

Twenty years before,

Bill had attended Cambridge University.

His classmates nicknamed him “the cynic.”

He had a mean personality

and an even meaner tongue.

He once wrote these words to a friend:

“I know I am…proud…bitter…

insulting…and always selfish.”

On the polar expedition, “Bill the cynic”

Became “Bill the peacemaker.”

And just before he died,

Captain Scott wrote to a friend:

“If this letter reaches you,

Bill and I have gone on together.

We are very near it now;

and I should like you to know

how splendid Bill was…everlastingly cheerful

and ready to sacrifice himself for others.

His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope

and his mind is peaceful.”

Meanwhile, in his last hours Bill Wilson wrote:

“So I live now,

knowing that I am in God’s hands

to be used to bring others to him,

if he wills a long life…

or if I die tomorrow.

“We must do what we can

and leave the rest to him…

my trust is in God,

so that it matters not what I do

or where I go.”

The story of Bill Wilson illustrates

what today’s scripture exhorts us to do.

First, the gospel reading asks us

to take top heart the words of John the Baptist:

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

And second, Paul exhorts us

to live according to the spirit of Jesus, saying:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may, with one voice  glorify…God.”

Bill Wilson’s remarkable change

illustrates what the church urges us to do

during the season of Advent.

It urges us to “repent,

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

When Bill Wilson was at Cambridge University,

he never dreamed

how close the kingdom of God was for him.

He never dreamed that in 20 short years

he would be called by God

to give an account of his life.

And Bill Wilson’s classmates

never dreamed how much he would change

in those 20 short years.

The man who was proud, bitter and selfish

became a man

who was splendid, cheerful and self-giving.

The man who was known as “the cynic”

became the man

who was known as “the peacemaker.”

History is filled

with men and women like Bill Wilson –

men and women

who began life as selfish individuals

and ended life as loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that we to can turn from our sins

and become loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to do for us

what he did for them.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to give us the same grace

that he gave them.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God had in mind for us

when he created us.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God wants us to become.

Advent is a time

when we recall that God wants us

to make something beautiful of our lives.

Advent is a time

when we try to respond to God’s plan for us

as generously

as did men and women like Bill Wilson.

This is what advent is all about.

It’s the season that invites us to

take to heart,

the words of John the Baptist

in today’s gospel:

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

It’s the season that invites us

to take to heart Paul’s prayer for us

in today’s second reading.

Let’s close by repeating it:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may with one voice

glorify the God and Father

of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Welcome one another, then,

as Christ welcomed you,

for the glory of God.”

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