SHOOTING THE WRONG TARGET

There was a man who’d spent his whole life in the desert and had never seen a train or even a train track. When at last he made his first visit to civilization, he found himself walking down the very middle of some tracks. He heard a whistle, woo-woo, woo-woo. He wondered what it was, and he was still wondering when the train hit him and threw him 40 feet in the air.

Six months later, he left the hospital and before long went to visit a friend’s house. While he was in the kitchen, he heard the tea kettle whistling, woo-woo, woo-woo.  Without a word, he dashed to his car, grabbed his shotgun, and shot that poor tea kettle dead.

“Why’d you do that?” asked his wide-eyed host.

“Brother,” said the desert man, “you gotta kill them critters while they’re still small.”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, SUNDAY MORNING: Reflections on the Word
(Sheed and Ward, 1996) Cycle A
Second Sunday of Advent

CONSIDER THIS

Shooting tea kettles accomplishes absolutely nothing, yet in many ways we do that sort of thing all the time. If you doubt that, listen to our conversations on the phone, on the golf course, in the car, or just about anywhere. From all the tut-tutting, deploring and lamenting, one could easily conclude that the world is populated almost entirely by idiots, knaves and incompetents, and that the only exceptions are you and me … and sometimes I wonder about you!

Remember what that cartoon character, Pogo, said? “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.” He was right. But unfortunately, too often we see the enemy as outside us, and that’s what we take aim at … and the poor tea kettles of this world get shot dead.

THE FOUL-MOUTHED PARROT

In celebration of Thanksgiving, a genteel widow went to a pet shop to buy a parrot. She found a rather splendid one, but the manager warned her it had been raised by a sailor and had a foul mouth. The woman was confident she could reform him, so she took him home, where she soon discovered just how foul a mouth he had.

Not a person to be trifled with, the woman took that bird and locked him in a dark closet for half an hour. Then she put him back in his cage and addressed him solemnly. “Now have you learned your lesson?” The parrot was unbowed, and responded with the same curses as before.

Back to the closet he went, this time for an hour. Again he was asked, “Have you learned your lesson?” And again, undaunted, he squawked his curses. With that, the woman opened the refrigerator door and thrust the parrot inside. When at last she pulled him out, he’d turned blue, his feathers were frozen stiff, and an icicle was hanging from his beak. “Well, now,” she asked triumphantly, “Are we going to say those words anymore?”

“N-n-oo, m-m-ma’am!” said the parrot humbly and with the greatest courtesy, “B-b-but could you please tell me, ma’am, what the turkey in there did?”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, SUNDAY MORNING: Reflections on the Word
(Sheed and Ward, 1996) Cycle B
First Sunday of Advent

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Here is another version of the same story

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to “clean up” the bird’s vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder.

John, in desperation, threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arms and said, “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour.”

John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird continued, “May I ask what the turkey did?”

Source | Frank Verano, All Kinds of Humor
(Xlibris, 2012) page 45

CONSIDER THIS

Some parrots are very slow learners. And so are some people – probably most of us. We are creatures of habit and it takes a lot of work, time and will power to change a habit. What does it take to shift your attitude?

 

ON GRATITUDE AND MERCY

One day, there was great commotion outside the Elders cell: two swallows had started a fierce fight with each other! The Elder was troubled. He went outside and beheld a distressing spectacle: the stronger swallow was attacking the other with its beak and literally plucking out its feathers. Without wasting any time, he chased the stronger swallow away. He lovingly took the injured bird in his hands and rescued it; as a result of his nursing, it survived.

Thereafter, just as the lion of St. Gerasimos used to follow the Saint everywhere, showing its gratitude and dedication, so also did this swallow: it flew in front of the Elder, fluttered its wings, frolicked, and sang.

One day, the Elder went outside, either to marvel at God in His works or to pray in silence. The swallow, his faithful friend and companion, was happily flying beside him.

The Elder sat down in the fruit-drying room a short distance from the monastery, and fell asleep without realizing it; but the swallow suddenly began to flutter rapidly above his head, chirping loudly, as if it wanted to wake him up and warn him of some danger.

And in very truth, when the Elder awoke, what did he see? A large reptile not too far away from him. His companion had in turn performed its own act of charity for the merciful.

Source | Archimandrite Ioannikios, Philaret of Kostamonitou, in Sygchrones Hagioreitikes Morphes—9 [Contemporary Athonite Personalities: Vol. IX] (Oropos: Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, 1983), pages 80-81.

SURPRISED BY THE UNEXPECTED

Phil and Brian had been the closest of friends since childhood. They played on the same ball teams. They married sisters in fact. They built homes in the same neighbourhood. Then Phil died suddenly. Brian was devastated.

One evening watching a beautiful sunset Brian was sure he felt the presence of Phil nearby.

“Is that you, Phil?” he asked.

“Yes, Brian, came the reply.”

“What’s it like where you are?”

“Well it’s kind of nice. I get up in the morning and I have some breakfast and I maybe go down for a swim in the lake. And when I encounter one of those lovely ladies I enjoy a romantic interlude. Soon it’s time for lunch and a nap.”

“Wow,” said Brian, “I had no idea heaven was like that.”

“Who says I’m in heaven?” replied Phil. “I’m a bull in Catalunya Spain.

Source | Adapted from a story I heard

CONSIDER THIS

Life is full of surprises!

SHOEMAKER MARTIN

In a certain town there lived a very honest cobbler called Martin. He lived in a tiny basement room. Its only window looked out onto the street. Of the passers-by all he could see was their feet. But since there was hardly a pair of boots or shoes that had not passed through is hands at one time or another for repair, Martin was able to identify the passers-by by looking at their shoes.

But life had been hard on Martin. His wife died, leaving him with a young son. However, no sooner had the son reached the age when he could be of help to his father than he fell ill and died. Martin buried him and gave way to despair, taking to the bottle at the same time. He gave up the practice of his religion. But one day an old friend of his dropped in. Martin poured out his soul to him. At the end of it his friend advised him to do a little reading from the Gospels each day, promising that if he did so, light and hope would come back into his life.

Where Love is, there God is also. Where Love is not, we are called to make the appropriate sacrifices, to go out of our way, to put it there. Martin took his friend’s advice. At the end of each day he would take down the gospels from the shelf and read a little. At first he meant only to read on Sundays, but he found it so interesting that he soon read everyday. Slowly his life changed. He gave up drink. The words of Christ created new hope for him and the deeds of Christ were like lights that drove out his darkness.

One night as Martin sat reading he thought he heard someone calling him. He listened and heard clearly: “Martin, Martin, look out into the street tomorrow for I will come to visit you.” He looked around the tiny room, and since there was no one to be seen he reckoned it must be the Lord Himself who had spoken to him.

So it was with a great sense of excitement that he sat down to his work the next day. As he worked he kept a close eye on the window. He was looking for something or someone special. But nothing exciting happened. Just the usual people passed by going about their everyday business.

The day wore on and nobody special passed by. In the early afternoon he saw a pair of old boots that were very familiar to him. They belonged to an old soldier called Stephen. Going to the window he looked up and saw the old man hitting his hands together for it was bitterly cold outside. Martin wished that he would move on, for he was afraid he might obstruct his view and that he would not see the Lord when he passed. But old Stephen just stood there by the railing. Finally it occurred to Martin that maybe Stephen had nothing to eat all day. So he tapped on the window and beckoned him to come in. He sat him by the fire and gave him tea and bread. Stephen was most grateful He said he hadn’t eaten for two whole days. As he left Martin gave him his second overcoat as a shield against the biting cold.

But all the time Martin was entertaining Stephen he had not forgotten the window. Every time a shadow fell on it he looked up but nobody extraordinary passed . Night fell, Martin finished his work and very reluctantly closed the window shutters. After supper he took down the Gospels and as was his custom he opened the Gospels and read at random. After reading for some time Martin put down the book and reflected. The words of the Lord came to him: “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was naked and you clothed me” He understood then that Christ had indeed come to him that day in the person of Stephen, and that he had made him welcome. And his heart was filled with a peace he had never before experienced.

Source | John Mark Ministries (jmm.org)
Read the original story: Where Love Is, God Is by Leo Tolstoy
Watch the movie: Martin The Cobbler

CONSIDER THIS

  • Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me. | Gospel of Matthew 25:40
  • To love another person. Is to see the face of God. | Epilogue in the Musical Les Miserables
  • I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least. | Dorothy Day
  • Show me the person you love the least, that’s how much you love God. | Francis de Sales

 

 

 

USE YOUR GOLD

A miser hid his gold at the foot of a tree in his garden. Every week he would dig it up and look at it for hours. One day a thief dug up the gold and made off with it. When the miser next came to gaze upon his treasure, all he found was an empty hole.

The man began to howl with grief so his neighbors came running to find out what the trouble was. When they found out, one of them asked, “Did you use any of the gold?”

“No,” said the miser. “I only looked at it every week.”

“Well, then.” said the neighbor, “for all the good the gold did you, you might just as well come her every week and gaze upon the hole.”

Source |  Anthony De Mello, SJ | The Heart of the Enlightened,
Doubleday,1989) page 20

CONSIDER THIS

It is not by our money but by our capacity for enjoyment that we are rich or poor. To strive for wealth and have no capacity for enjoyment is to be like the bald man who struggles to collect combs.

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Here’s a slightly different version

Once upon a time there was a wealthy miser who melted down his hoard of gold into a single lump which he then secretly buried in his garden. every day he went to look at it, and would spend hours gloating over it.

Then one of his servants discovered his secret, and came by night and stole the gold. when the miser discovered that his treasure had been stolen, he was heart-broken.

But a friend said to him. “Don’t take it so badly. Just put a brick on the hole, and take a look at it every day. You won’t be any worse off than before, for even when you had the gold you never used it.”

All of us bury some talent which we refuse to use either for our own benefit of for the benefit of others. And what us buried is of no earthly use to anyone.

Source | Flor McCarthy SDB, New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies
(Dominican Publications, 1998) pages 346-347

EVEN TEACUPS TALK

A grandfather and a grandmother are in a gift shop looking for something to give their granddaughter for her birthday. Suddenly the grandmother spots a beautiful teacup.

“Look at this lovely cup!” she says to the grandfather. He picks it up and exclaims, “You’re right! This is one of the loveliest teacups I’ve ever seen.”

At that point something remarkable happens – something that could happen only in a children’s book. The teacup says to the grandparents, “Thank you for the compliment, but I wasn’t always beautiful.”

Instead of being surprised that the teacup can talk, the grandparents simply ask,  “What do you mean when you say you weren’t always beautiful?”

“Well”, says the teacup, “once I was just an ugly, soggy lump of clay. Until one day someone with dirty wet hands scooped me up and threw me on a potter’s wheel. Then she started turning the wheel faster and faster until I got so dizzy I couldn’t see straight. ‘Stop! Stop!’, I cried.”

But she repeated, ‘Not Yet!’

“Finally she did stop. But then she did something even worse. She put me into a furnace. It got hotter and hotter until I couldn’t stand it.  Again I cried out, ‘Stop! Stop!’

“Still she said, ‘Not yet!’

“Finally, when I thought I was going to burn up, she took me out of the furnace. Then some short lady began to paint me. The fumes from the paint got so bad that I felt sick. ‘Stop, stop!’ I pleaded.

“The short lady too said, ‘Not yet!’

“At last she stopped. But then she gave me back and that other woman put me back into that awful furnace. This time it was hotter than before. And I shouted, ‘Stop! Stop!’

“The woman peered in and said, ‘Not yet!’

“Now, at long last, she took me out of the furnace and let me aside to  cool – ‘Phew.’ When I was completely cooled, a young boy put me in a box with straw all over me and other teacups too. Then a pretty lady put me on this shelf, next to this mirror.

“When I looked in the mirror, I was amazed at myself. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was no longer ugly, soggy, and dirty. Now I glistened. I was beautiful, firm, and clean. Oh, how I cried for joy.

“It was then that I realized that all that suffering was worthwhile. Without it I would still be ugly, soggy and dirty. And it was then that all that pain took on meaning and made some sense to me. It passed, but the beauty it brought remained.”

Source |  Brian Cavabaugh, Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement: Fifth Planting
(Paulist Press; 5th edition, 1998) pages 21-22

CONSIDER THIS

Like clay in the hands of a master potter, so are we in the hands of Life.