LOVING WHOLEHEARTEDLY

An eager young man longing to live a good life, went to his rabbi and said, “I know that the Hebrew Scriptures say that we ought to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. But I am very much aware that my heart and soul and mind and strength have bad parts in them. So, tell me, how can I love God?”

After a pause the rabbi replied, “Well, it seems that you’re going to have to learn how to love God with the bad parts too.”

Source: Unknown

CONSIDER THIS

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, but wholeheartedness.” David Steindl-Rast in response to a question by poet David Whyte.

“In fiction good people do good things and bad people do bad: that’s why it is called fiction!” (Oscar Wilde) In real life bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things.

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SHEPHERD OR BUTCHER

A pastor was taking pilgrims on a tour of the Holy Land. He had just read them the parable of the good shepherd and was explaining to them that, as they continued their tour, they would see shepherds on the hillsides just as in Jesus’ day. He wanted to impress the group, so he told them what every good pastor tells his people about shepherds.

He described how, in the Holy Land, shepherds always lead their sheep, always walking in front to face dangers, always protecting the sheep by going ahead of them. He barely got the last word out when, sure enough, they rounded a corner and saw a man and his sheep on the hillside.

There was only one problem: the man wasn’t leading the sheep as the good pastor had said. No, he was behind the sheep and seemed to be chasing them, throwing stones at them, and whacking them with a stick.

The pastor turned red. Flabbergasted, he ran over to the fence and said, “I always thought shepherds in this region led their sheep — out in front. And I told my people that a good shepherd never chases his sheep.” The man replied, “That’s absolutely true… you’re absolutely right … but I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher!”

Source | Based on Lynn Anderson,
They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the 21st Century
(Howard Books, 2002) pages 29-30

CONSIDER THIS

On some levels we are all leaders in life. Some lead with a title and many lead without a title. Whatever the case may be, ask: when it comes to leadership, what is my basic attitude? Is it that of the shepherd who leads lovingly or that of the butcher who chases, drives and forces?

Is my leadership such that it leads to violence, “butchering” potential and possibility along the way, or is it of the non-violent type, always seeking the good of the other, encouraging and affirming?

LISTENING TO BOTH SIDES

The disciple asked the master: “What should a decent and respectful human being do to understand the real-world situation? What makes a human being out-of-touch with reality?”

After a few moments of quiet stillness the master answered: “Always listen wholeheartedly to both sides and you will be enlightened; listen to only one side and you will be left in the dark.”

Source | Unknown.
This rendition is as adapted and retold by Philip Chircop sj.

CONSIDER THIS

I am told that the Chinese symbol for “listening” is made of two main characters, one depicting the ears and the other depicting the heart. To really listen one must not only use both ears but also the heart!  To really listen one be fully present, wholeheartedly, offering undivided attention to the other.

What do you hear when you listen to the one you love or to the one you consider to be your enemy? Are you engaged in active listening?

WHY WEREN’T YOU ZUSIA?

Once, the great Hassidic leader, Zusia, came to his followers. His eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear.

“Zusia, what’s the matter? You look frightened!”

“The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”

The followers were puzzled. “Zusia, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusia turned his gaze to heaven. “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?'”

His followers persisted. “So, what will they ask you?”

“And I have learned,” Zusia sighed, “that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?'”

One of his followers approached Zusia and placed his hands on Zusia’s shoulders. Looking him in the eyes, the follower demanded, “But what will they ask you?”

“They will say to me, ‘Zusia, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?'”

Source | Doug Lipman, The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People’s Best. (August House, 2006)

CONSIDER THIS

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”Oscar Wilde

We live in a world that has a very strong opinion what we “should” be.  We ”should” be young, thin, beautiful, rich, successful.  We “should” have the right stuff — like the right kind of house and the right kind of car.  And we “should” act like those around us that look the right way and have the right stuff. Where in all of that is authenticity?

Sometimes, without realizing it, we give up ourselves.  We slowly fall prey to the bombardment of the pop culture messages that constantly surround us.

KNOWING THE SHEPHERD

A group of business professionals was gathered for their monthly luncheon. As was their custom once each year, they invited their pastors to join them. After the meal they had scheduled a famous actor to provide some entertainment as people were enjoying coffee and dessert. The actor stood before them dramatically reciting lines from famous plays and poetry. At one point he invited requests from those in attendance. One elderly priest rose and spoke. “Would you recite for us Psalm 23?” The actor, a bit surprised by the unusual request, finally agreed. “Father,” he said,”I’ll agree to your request under one condition. After I recite the psalm, I’d be honored if you would then recite it too.” Reluctantly, the elderly priest agreed.

So the actor presented a stunningly beautiful recitation of Psalm 23, to which people responded with enthusiastic applause. Then he turned to the priest and said, “Okay, Father, your turn.” So the priest rather hesitantly stood and began reciting the famous psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.”

When he finished, there was no applause, just hushed silence. The people, so moved by his simple recitation, were sitting with tears running down their faces. After a few moments the actor rose and spoke. “Ladies and gentlemen, I spoke to your ears. But this man has spoken to your hearts. And here’s the difference. I know Psalm 23. But this man knows the Shepherd.”

Source | Dan ShutteWalking the Sacred Path: Spiritual Exercises for Today
(Twenty-Third Publications, 2009)

CONSIDER THIS

Sometimes we mistakenly think that our faith is about understanding the truths of our faith, or professing a particular creed of beliefs, or learning the Holy Scriptures. But these things are only secondary. Our faith, at its core, is about our relationship with God, and with Jesus, the one who showed us the face of God.

ASCENSION THURSDAY AND DESCENSION FRIDAYS

The teacher was dressed in his Sunday best and when the student asked him why, the teacher responded, “To celebrate the great feast!”

“Aren’t you confused, Teacher?” asked the student. “We just celebrated Ascension Thursday yesterday.”

“Yes, that was indeed a high holy day of the Risen Jesus ascending into heaven,” replied the teacher. “But forty-one days after Easter is the equally holy, incarna­tional feast of Descension Friday. After ascending to his reward in heaven, Christ immediately descended deeply into the depths of daily life here on earth. And Descension Friday, I assure you, is a far harder feast to live out than Ascension Thursday.”

Source | Edward Hays, The Ladder
(Ave Maria Press, 1999)

CONSIDER THIS

On the feast of the ascension we are not celebrating a departure but an arrival, not an absence but a presence.  It is all about putting on “easter eyes” and see the Presence in “the depths of daily life here on earth.”

THE SLEEPING BROTHER

Some old men went to Abba Poemen and asked,

“If we see brothers sleeping during the common prayer, should we wake them?”

Abba Poemen answered,
“If I see my brother sleeping, I put his head on my knees and let him rest.”
Then one old man spoke up,
“And how do you explain yourself before God?”
Abba Poemen replied,
“I say to God: You have said, ‘First take the beam out of your own eye and then you will be able to remove the splinter from the eye of your brother.”

Source | Stories from the Desert Fathers

PONDER AND CONSIDER

How much precious time do we waste watching what others are doing and perhaps judging them intentionally or unintentionally? What if we use that energy to try and be fully present to what we are supposed to be doing?