THE MUSIC COMING FROM THE HOUSE

On Christmas Eve, the king invited the prime minister to join him for their usual walk together. He enjoyed seeing the decorations in the streets, but since he didn’t want his subjects to spend too much money on these just to please him, the two men always disguised themselves as traders from some far distant land.

They walked through the centre of the city, admiring the lights, the Christmas trees, the candles burning on the steps of the houses, the stalls selling gifts, and the men, women and children hurrying off to celebrate a family Christmas around a table laden with food.

On the way back, they passed through a poorer area, where the atmosphere was quite different. There were no lights, no candles, no delicious smells of food about to be served. There was hardly a soul in the street, and, as he did every year, the king remarked to the prime minister that he really must pay more attention to the poor in his kingdom. The prime minister nodded, knowing that the matter would soon be forgotten again, buried beneath the day-to-day bureaucracy of budgets to be approved and discussions with foreign dignitaries.

Suddenly, they heard music coming from one of the poorest houses. The hut was so ramshackle and the rotten wooden timbers so full of cracks, that they were able to peer through and see what was happening inside. And what they saw was utterly absurd: an old man in a wheelchair apparently crying, a shaven-headed young woman dancing, and a young man with sad eyes shaking a tambourine and singing a folk song.

‘I’m going to find out what they’re up to,’ said the king.

He knocked. The music stopped, and the young man came to the door.

‘We are merchants in search of a place to sleep. We heard the music, saw that you were still awake, and wondered if we could spend the night here.’

‘You can find shelter in a hotel in the city. We, alas, cannot help you. Despite the music, this house is full of sadness and suffering.’

‘And may we know why?’

‘It’s all because of me.’ It was the old man in the wheelchair who spoke. ‘I’ve spent my life teaching my son calligraphy, so that he could one day get a job as a palace scribe. But the years have passed and no post has ever come up. And then, last night, I had a stupid dream: an angel appeared to me and asked me to buy a silver goblet because, the angel said, the king would be coming to visit me. He would drink from the goblet and give my son a job.

‘The angel was so persuasive that I decided to do as he said. Since we have no money, my daughter-in-law went to the market this morning to sell her hair so that we could buy that goblet over there. The two of them are doing their best to get me in the Christmas spirit by singing and dancing, but it’s no use.’

The king saw the silver goblet, asked to be given a little water to quench his thirst and, before leaving, said to the family:

‘Do you know, we were talking to the prime minister only today, and he told us that an opening for a palace scribe would be announced next week.’

The old man nodded, not really believing what he was hearing, and bade farewell to the strangers. The following morning, however, a royal proclamation was read out in all the city streets; a new scribe was needed at court. On the appointed day, the audience room at the palace was packed with people eager to compete for that much-sought-after post. The prime minister entered and asked everyone there to prepare their paper and pens:

‘Here is the subject of the composition: Why is an old man weeping, a shaven-headed woman dancing, and a sad young man singing?’

A murmur of disbelief went round the room. No one knew how to tell such a story, apart, that is, from the shabbily dressed young man sitting in one corner, who smiled broadly and began to write.

Source | Paolo Coelho, Christmas Stories
Sant Jordi Asociados (December 5, 2014)

CONSIDER THIS

Many things come to pass when we least expect them and in ways we have never imagined!

THE GIFT OF THE POOR

Pedro Arrupe tells of visiting his brother Jesuits who were working in a desperately poor slum in Latin America. During his visit he celebrated Mass for the local people in a small, decrepit building; cats and dogs wandered in and out during the Mass. Afterward,  Arrupe was invited to the house of one of the members of the congregation and received an unexpected gift.

Here’s what happened after Mass, in Arrupe’s own words:

When it was over, a big devil whose hang-dog look made me almost afraid said, “Come to my place. I have something to give you.” I was undecided; I didn’t know whether to accept or not, but the priest who was with me said, “Accept, Father, they are good people.” I went to his place; his house was a hovel nearly on the point of collapsing. He had me sit down on a rickety old chair. From there I could see the sunset. The big man said to me, “Look, sir, how beautiful it is!” We sat in silence for several minutes. The sun disappeared. The man then said, “I didn’t know how to thank you for all you have done for us. I have nothing to give you, but I thought you would like to see this sunset. You liked it, didn’t you? Good evening.” And then he shook my hand.

As I walked away I though, “I have seldom met such a kindhearted person.” I was strolling along that lane when a poorly dressed woman came up to me; she kissed my hand, looked at me, and with a voice filled with emotion said, “Father, pray for me and my children. I was at that beautiful Mass you celebrated. I must hurry home. But I have nothing to give my children. Pray to the Lord for me; he’s the one who must help us.” And she disappeared running in the direction of her home.

Many indeed are the things I learned thanks to that Mass among the poor. What a contrast with the great gatherings of the powerful of this world.

Source | Pedro Arrupe, One Jesuit’s Spiritual Journey: Autobiographical Conversations with Jean-Claude Dietsch SJ
Also told in James Martin, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, pages 211-212
and James Martin, My Life with the Saints, pages 107-108

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • There are those who have everything and daily miss the sunset and the many other blessings that companion us day by day.
  • There are those who have nothing and daily embrace the sunset as a precious gift from above that sustains us.

HOW THE POOR LIVE

One day, a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”

“It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.

“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless.

Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • The earth is generous and abundant in its giving. It’s we human beings with our fear of scarcity that end up blocking the flow of abundance.
  • Poverty is not measured in our wallets and bank accounts, but in our minds. There are very rich people who are poor.  And there are very poor people who are rich!
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