A story is told about Muriel Lester, and English Quaker and a striver after kingdom life. One night she returned home from a meeting and found a man with a gun going through her drawers. Their conversation went something like this:
Muriel: “Good evening! Now please put that thing down. I don’t like guns and can’t talk with one in my face.” He looked at her, so stunned that he laid the gun on the dresser, one hand still on it. “Now, how can I help you? What have you come for?”
Burglar: “I’m taking your money, jewellery, and other valuables, lady. Don’t be tough with me.”
Muriel: “You must be in great need. But let’s not tear up my whole house. Here, I have almost no jewellery, but my money is in there. You may get it. I’ll collect the heirlooms and a few other things.” With that she went around her home, removing all her material treasures from their places and bringing them to the burglar. All her money she also gave him. As he walked out of the door, brandishing his gun, threatening her not to call the police, she said, “Don’t worry. Your needs are greater than mine. I will not report. I hope you have enough now. God bless you.” She then went to bed and slept in peace.
A few days later, her goods were all returned to her with an anonymous note: “No one has ever been kind to me before. I can’t steal from you.”
Source | Marilyn Gustin, Finding Joy & Peace: Living the Beatitudes Every Day
(Liguori Publications, 1998) page 44
Imagine you are Muriel, in a similar situation, what would you do? Would you react violently or respond with kindness?
Once there was a general who was infamous for his viciousness. He was brutal, without mercy. He went to attack a very small village that lay in the path of his army. Everyone in the village, knowing of the general’s reputation, ran away – everyone except one man When the general entered the village, he found this one man sitting calmly under a tree. So the general went to the man and said, “Do you know who I am, and do you know what I am capable of? I can run my sword right through you without batting an eye!” And the man said, “I know.” Looking at the general, he continued, “But do you know who I am and what I am capable of? I’ll let you do it … without batting an eye.”
Source | Paul Coutinho SJ, How Big is Your God
Loyola Press (November 1, 2010) page 31
PONDER AND CONSIDER
This is the difference between practicing religion and developing a living relationship with the Divine. How do we respond when we are attacked? If our response is still an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth we’re not much better than the general.
But if our response is one of peace and reconciliation, then we offer a better alternative, and that response can be disarming and a catalyst for change.
How? If you want to change start by changing a thought, just one thought: everything begins with a thought. Change your thinking and you will be a changed person. The thought will be expressed in your words, will affect your feelings, and will guide your behaviour. And the words, feelings, and behaviours you send out into the world will affect and slowly transform the world around you.
- Can you change just one thought?
- Can you know who you are in your mind, in your consciousness, enough to think peace, act in peace, be peace … without batting an eye?
A snake in the village had bitten so many people that few dared go into the fields. Such was the Master’s holiness that he was said to have tamed the snake and persuaded it to practice the discipline of nonviolence.
It did not take long for the villager to discover that the snake had become harmless. They took to hurling stones at it and dragging it about by its tail.
The badly battered snake crawled into the Master’s house one night to complain. Said the Master, “Friend, you have stopped frightening people, that’s bad!”
“But it was you who taught me to practice the discipline of nonviolence!”
“I told you to stop hurting, not to stop hissing!”
Source | Anthony de Mello, SJ, One Minute Wisdom
(Image Books, 1988) page 45
PONDER AND CONSIDER
Once upon a time there was a man who was against war. He got many people excited about his mission and built a large organization to speak out against the war. Eventually people got tired and gave up on him and the mission. He ended up standing outside the capital with an anti-war poster all alone.
One day, a passerby, noticing the lone protestor, walked up to him and asked him in a chiding voice: “Do you really think you’re going to change the world?”
The man replied: “No, but I hope by showing up, the world will not change me.”
Source | Unknown
PONDER AND CONSIDER
- Is it always good not to let the world change one or is it perhaps sometimes more courageous and even essential that we be changed by the world?