Friday, January 25, 2008
“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 5:3)
“SOUL-SURFING” – February 3, 2008
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Always one to lend a helping hand, whether directly asked or not, my father’s benevolence toward his fellow human beings has usually elicited a hearty thanks from those to whom he has lent assistance. But this time was different. The other guy didn’t even know he was being helped. And more: my father was left with an unwieldy burden that sat for months on his front porch.
It all began on one of Dad’s frequent excursions to visit Mom’s grave at the Saratoga National Veteran’s Cemetery. On a bright fall morning, Dad found himself following an open-bed delivery truck that, upon hitting a pothole in the road, disgorged a long narrow box onto the roadway. The truck driver went right on, never knowing he’d lost part of his cargo, but Dad, ever the helpful one, pulled his car to the side of the road and retrieved the 6 foot-long thin box from the roadway. By now the truck was out of sight and the road, light of traffic at best, was completely deserted. It was just Dad and this box. Should I just leave it here at the side of the road, he wondered, or should I attempt to return it to the trucking company. Never one to leave well enough alone, Dad shoved the unwieldy box into his car, continued on to the cemetery, visited Mom, and then returned home thinking to make the appropriate phone call ensuring the dropped package’s safe return to its owner.
Back home, Dad hauled the box from car to front porch for a closer inspection. Not at once discerning any markings on the package, he fetched his reading glasses from the house, got down on all fours and began a minute investigation not unlike those regularly seen on TV’s CSI. Still unable to find anything helpful, Dad then gingerly opened one end of the box, his touch careful as that of a bomb expert handling an explosive device. Inside he found a dozen completely nondescript 6 foot-long metal rods. What are these, he wondered? Where are they from? More importantly, what do I do now? The only hint offered by the mysterious box was stenciled in small letters on one side: Nashville, Tennessee. Well, thought Dad, I’m sure as heck not going to call Nashville directory assistance and explain my dilemma. They’ll think I’m some kind of a nut! And so that unwieldy box lay on his front porch through the fall turning of leaves and on into winter, snow drifts eventually swirling onto the open porch and covering the mystery package with winter’s white.
A stumbling block, that unwieldy burden covered in snow on Dad’s front porch: yet how many of us are possessed of just such an unwanted item! Indeed, most of us lug such baggage all through life, not an actual box fallen off the back of a truck, but spiritual and emotional baggage that so easily trips us up in our relationship with God and with others. And it seems the more comfortable our lifestyle, the more apt we are to possess such baggage. Indeed, there’s blessing to be found in a simpler life, in an uncluttered life, in a life without a long, snow-covered box lying across the front porch.
The gospel passage we hear today addresses the blessings of those who have rid their porches of stumbling blocks. In fact, today’s gospel extols as blessed those who do without those many things that most of us consider absolutely essential. In short, the have-nots in this world stand a far better chance at reaching heaven than those possessed of much, for, as Jesus insists, it’s only the uncluttered heart that is able to make room for God. In summation, “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 5:3) Yes, choosing to live without the props that give the impression of self-satisfied prosperity is the only way home.
With Ash Wednesday just days away, the Christian world prepares to begin its annual observance of Lent, forty days of reflection on the distance we’ve placed between ourselves and God. It’s time once again to admit that our front porches have become cluttered, that God’s access to our doorway has become a bit treacherous because of the junk that we’ve stockpiled. It’s time once again to shovel the snowdrifts off the porch and open the doors of our hearts in welcome to the one who’s been incessantly seeking entry. Let the story of a little boy’s struggle encourage us in our efforts to live spiritually simpler lives.
“A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible, Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the text. Little Ricky was excited about the project, but he just couldn't seem to get it right. After many weeks of practice, he could barely get past the first line without stumbling. On the day the youngsters were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the entire congregation, Ricky was terrified, nervous beyond belief! But something truly marvelous happened when his turn came, for he stepped up to the microphone and announced proudly, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know.’" (Original source unknown)
Yes, indeed: it’s all I need to know!
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