A DISCONCERTING REAPPEARANCE

Once upon a time a young man who had been reported killed in action came home from a prisoner of war camp. His family and his buddies and even his girlfriend had mourned him as dead and then more or less got over their grief.

His sudden reappearance was disconcerting, to say the least. They had all loved him, but they had in effect written him out of their lives. His girlfriend was engaged to marry someone else. Moreover, he didn’t seem like the boy who had gone off to war. He was thin and haggard and haunted.

However, he was now mature, self-possessed, and, astonishingly, happy. He hadn’t smiled much as a kid and rarely joked. Now he was witty and ebullient all the time. A quiet kid had become an outgoing adult man. He didn’t fit in the patterns of relationships he had left behind. Quite the contrary, his happiness and maturity were unsettling. He congratulated his former girlfriend on her coming marriage and shook hands cordially with the fiancé. There’s something wrong with him, everyone said. His family went to the priest. There sure is, the priest said – he has risen from the dead and now acts like a saint.

Source: Andrew M. Greeley, April 20, 2003
www.agreeley.com

CONSIDER THIS

  • “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26
  • “What requires courage is being willing to disappoint and upset all those friends and family members who want us to stay the way we are, because they want to stay the way they are. It’s being prepared to redefine success and failure, and to become a fool if need be. At heart it’s being willing to receive information from the darkness within, so there can be less of us that is buried, and more of us resurrected.”  -David Weale

BEYOND TEMPTATION

A rabbi went on a journey with his servant named Jacob. Their cart was drawn by a lively horse of which the rabbi was very fond. When they came to a roadside inn, the rabbi went in to rest, leaving his horse in Jacob’s care.

In the meantime, a horse trader passed by and, seeing Jacob, soon made friends with him. He plied him with drink and Jacob soon was so intoxicated it was easy for the horse trader to induce him to sell him the horse for a song. Although drunk, Jacob was frightened by what he had done. What would the rabbi say when he came out of the inn? An idea occurred to him. He placed himself between the empty shafts of the cart and started to chew hay. When the rabbi came out, he was struck speechless by what he saw.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he finally managed to stammer. “Where’s the horse?”

“The horse? That’s me!” replied Jacob, and he uttered a loud whinny.

“What on earth are you doing?” murmured the rabbi, frightened to death. “Have you gone out of your mind?”

“Don’t be angry with me, Rabbi,” pleaded his servant Jacob. “Years ago a great misfortune happened to me. I was a young man then, a little wild and foolish, and, may God forgive me, I sinned with a woman. So to punish me, God turned me into a horse  – your horse. For twenty long years you have been my master, Rabbi, little suspecting who I really was. Well, it seems my punishment is over. I’m again a man, praise God!”

When the rabbi heard Jacob’s story he began to tremble and prayed for God’s mercy. However, there was a practical difficulty to attend to – he could not continue his journey without a horse, so he went into the market place to buy one. Suddenly, he stood face to face with his old horse. It was munching a wisp of hay at the horse trader’s. Going up to it in alarm, the rabbi whispered into its ear, “For goodness sake, Jacob! Again, so soon!”

Source: Nathan Ausubel, A Treasury of Jewish Humor
(New York: M. Evans and Company, 1951) 

PONDER AND CONSIDER

It seems to me that the human journey is never linear, neat and tidy. It is more like a dance of three steps forward and two steps backward . I call it the “backslide dance”.  I looked up the word “backsliding”  in the dictionary. It means “to relapse into bad habits, sinful behavior, or undesirable activities.” Maybe you’ve known the frustration of losing ground along the way, reverting to old, unhealthy habits.  What phrases would you use to describe this state? I came up with three phrases:

  • “I’m lukewarm”.
  • “I’ve grown cold”.
  • “I’m no longer on fire”.

And what can you do to change the tide and catch fire?

THE HERMIT AND THE MOUSE

Long ago, in a hermitage, there lived a great sage. One day, as he sat down to have his lunch, a mouse fell from the beak of a crow, on the ground near him. He picked the mouse up, took him inside the ashram and fed him some rice.

One day, the sage saw a cat chasing the mouse around the ashram. He was afraid that his pet mouse would be killed by the cat. By the power of his penance, he turned the mouse into a cat so that it could defend itself against other cats.

Soon a dog appeared on the scene and started barking at and chasing the cat. When the sage saw this, he changed the cat into a dog.

One day his dog was frightened by a tiger. The sage immediately changed his dog into a tiger, again by the power of his penance.

However, the sage always treated the tiger as if it was still his little mouse. Whenever the villagers who passed by the sage’s ashram saw the tiger, they would say, “Ha! That’s not a tiger! It’s just a mouse that the sage changed into a tiger. He won’t eat us or even scare us.”

When the tiger heard this, he was furious. “As long as the sage is alive,” he thought, “the truth about my real nature will never die. I must get rid of him for good.” The tiger decided to kill the sage.

But as soon as the sage saw him coming towards him, he knew what was going on in the tiger’s mind. He shouted, “Get back into your form of a mouse.” No sooner had he uttered these words than the tiger shrank and became a little mouse once again. The sage looked at him with pity and said, “Whatever one is, large or small, it’s good to be humble.”

Source | G.L. Chandiramani, The Hitopadesha: An Ancient Fabled Classic, page 230
See also: Marica Brown, Once a Mouse

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Whatever one is, large or small, big or little, a celebrity or not, it’s always goo to stay real, get off any sticky pedestal behaviour and be humble.

GOD’S FRUIT STAND

A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.”  “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself.

She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.”  God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry.  I sell only seeds.”

Source | John Shea, The legend of the bells and other tales: Stories of the human spirit

PONDER AND CONSIDER

God doesn’t deal out perfection, but the seeds which lead to fullness of life. Expecting something finished or a completed project, expecting quick and easy perfection from anyone or anything is never realistic. We are an unfinished symphony living in an unfinished, ever unfolding story of the universe. All wee can do is to daily employ love, care, kindness, hospitality and a readiness for constant and ongoing change and growth.