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.

___________________________________

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.

 

 

TWISTING THE SIGNPOST

Once upon a time there was an old man on the brink of death. As he lay in bed, it was clear to a friend sitting nearby that something was troubling him. Finally, the old man broke the silence. “When I was a boy,” he said, “I used to play in a field near the intersection. There, at the intersection stood an old signpost. One day I twisted it so that its arrows directed travelers down the wrong road. As I lie here now, I wonder how many people I misdirected by that action – and by other wrong actions in my life.”

Source | Originally heard during a conference.  Here I retell it as I remember it.

CONSIDER THIS

What actions in our lives are, perhaps, a source of misdirection to others?

 

NO, MAYBE AND YES

There were three tulip bulbs named No, Yes and Maybe. They lived at the bottom of a bulb tin, content to be round and fat and dressed in silky brown garments. When autumn came, they fell to discussing the destiny of tulip bulbs. NO said, “I don’t think there is any life for tulip bulbs. We were made to live in bulb tins and I’m quite content to be right here.” And with that NO rolled over and went to sleep.

MAYBE disagreed. “I’m not satisfied with things as they are. I feel something inside me that I must achieve and I believe I can.” So he squeezed and squeezed himself, turning this way and that. But nothing happened, and finally in frustration MAYBE gave up.

Then YES spoke up. “I’ve been told,” she said very softly, “that by ourselves we can do nothing but that we can achieve our destiny, if we put ourselves in the hands of Life.” The others just sniffed and looked away.

Now one day a hand reached down into the bulb tin, groping for a bulb. NO and MAYBE scurried out of reach, and hid in a corner. But YES rolled right into the hands of Life, which took her and buried her in the cold, damp earth of winter!

“What a fool to fall for that trick,” laughed NO and MAYBE, who were warm, dry. and safe in their little bulb tin. And with that they went back to sleep. When spring came, NO and MAYBE were nowhere to be seen. NO had shrivelled up and died in his sleep; while MAYBE had worried and fidgeted himself to death. Nothing remained of them but a few dry husks and a handful of dust. And what about YES who had let herself be buried all winter in the ground and had seemed to everyone to be dead?

Well she was a sight to behold. For you see, she had burst out of the ground and blossomed into a whole new life.

Source | Dennis R. Clark, SUNDAY MORNING: Reflections on the Word
(Sheed and Ward, 1996) Cycle A, 28 ordinary time

CONSIDER THIS

  • What is your name? Yes, No or Maybe?
  • Do you find it hard to say YES and to remember that with each new dawn Life is inviting you to blossom into a new life?
  • Name the fear-habits that are holding you back from saying YES to Life.

RETHINKING

The manager of a large office noticed a new man one day and told him to come into his office. “What’s your name?” he asked the new guy.

“John,” the new guy answered.

The manager scowled, “Look, I don’t know what kind of place you worked before, but I don’t call anyone by their first name. It breeds familiarity and that leads to a breakdown in authority. I refer to my employees by their last name only – Smith, Jones, Baker – that’s all. I am to be referred to only as Mr. Robertson. Do you understand?”

As the new man nodded, the manager continued, “Now that we got that straight, what is your last name?”

The new guy sighed, “Darling. My name is John Darling.”

“OK, John, the next thing I want to tell you is…”

Source |  Charles Hunter,  Healing Through Humor
(Creation House, 2003) ) page 156.

CONSIDER THIS

We make rules, and yet we also make exceptions to the rules.
Is it possible that rules only apply when they’re acceptable to us?