The Fifteenth Time

It’s been a week of great loss and trials for many people I know.  My heart was heavy as I drove to church this morning.  Having trouble distinguishing between my tears and the pelting rain on the windshield, I knew deep inside that I must shake off this dreariness immediately.  In my car, I began praising God out loud for all of His goodness, His providence and mercy. He is all love and deserving of my gratitude. No one could love us more and He hurts when we hurt.  His providence is real and none of the things happening this week are a surprise to Him. He sees it all and we are still in the palm of His hand.  He will set things aright for those who trust in Him, and we don’t need to understand it all or give Him directions on how to run the world.  But if you are driving around alone in your car going about your day, you may forget this; and that is why it is imperative that you gather with a group of like-minded faith-filled people to affirm this faith in one another.

I knew, during mass, God wanted me to stand up straight and smile again, and be a light in this world.  There is enough believing for the hurt and suffering that exists–what is needed is evidence of faith–and we see it unmistakably, every single week.

Gospel MK 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”
Reflections from the Group
There are many reasons we do the things we do, but many times we make excuses for ourselves to keep doing things we know we shouldn’t.  The language of this gospel is strong and clear.  Detaching from the things that may slowly drag us into our demise unwillingly and even unknowingly is necessary.  The weight of our actions is serious; it may seem “fire and brimstone”, but there is a true urgency not to fall into sin.  We need to root out the causes and effects of our bad choices and realize that this world is a battleground of good vs. evil.  Souls are at stake.
Christ is our “teacher”, as the apostles refer to him in the first lines of this reading, but that is just the beginning.  The holy Trinity, God Our Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit have a breadth that we cannot assume or limit.  We don’t know the circumstances and intentions behind which choices people make, and we should be openly offering our testimony of faith (in action if not in word) to those we meet along our path.  A person’s faith is not a factor that we use in offering what we can do bring God into their lives.  We should never assume or withhold anything as the apostle were trying to do, or put parameters around the way God can work in someone’s heart.  God will always meet us wherever we are in our journey if we invite Him.
Daniel The Drunk 
Similarly today, we discussed a story that was found on a missionary blog, written by a man whose family was serving in a small town in Costa Rica.  There was a man named Daniel who had been shunned by everyone because of his ongoing issues with alcoholism. Daniel had burnt every bridge he had ever crossed in the small village where he spent his nights drinking with a crowd who did the same.  Daniel had nothing left to his name, no belongings, and no where to lay his head except the graveyard where he spent most nights.  The missionary wasn’t going to give up on Daniel even though everyone he talked to told him not to waste his time.  Time and time again, Daniel had taken advantage of other’s charity. This didn’t stop the missionary from deciding that Jesus would not have given up on Daniel.  Daniel’s ultimate wish was to sleep in a home. The missionary and Daniel drove all over town trying to find a place to rent that would be paid in advance for Daniel, but no one trusted that Daniel would be able to maintain the rental or make good on the bargain.  They tried house after house, until finally, the fourteenth person, an older woman, reluctantly accepted the missionaries conditions to pay for Daniel’s rental.
Daniel was so relieved and pleased, that he assured his missionary friend that this home would not just house him, but be a place where he would invite the others in town who were also struggling for an AA meeting where they would share a meal, read the bible, and pray together.  It was to become the beginning of a change for Daniel, who had felt hope that the demon of alcoholism may finally leave him alone, because someone finally kept believing in him.
We can all look at the “Daniels” in life and shake our heads, but the truth is, we all have our own sinful nature and repeated pitfalls (but for the grace of God go we into a similar demise). We all look to a certain person or two in our lives, who continue to offend in the same way, and wonder if they will ever “get it” and “fix” themselves.  We think we can help someone or fix someone, but even that thinking is usually done from a self-serving disposition, however sublime.
A missionary with a heart like Jesus was willing to take a man at “face value”–despite his raw nature–to put stock in someone that everyone else had rejected.  He took the difficult and self-sacrificing road of what he believed Jesus would do.  Even if the search for a home had continued, he would have gone to knock and ask to rent the house a fifteenth time, and then some.  We all need to be willing to forgive our neighbor and extend mercy time and again as in Matthew 18:21-22; “Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times”.   We know that when it is difficult for us, we are doing it right.
Cardinal Virtue: HOPE
Human Virtue: Justice.  We felt it was imperative to have compassion before acting to make sure that the reason we were persevering wasn’t for the sake of duty, but a heart aligned with Christ’s; a heart of love.
How We Will Act
We will spend time listening to a person that we feel we have forgiven multiple times and are continually bothered or perplexed by their repeated mistakes (whether we have been hurt by them or just feel they have “offended” us, which is most likely from the enemy).  In doing so, we will not judge or try to “fix” them.  After listening with an open heart, we will try to make an encouraging comment to support them; doing as God does for all of us as noted in the gospel and in this case of Daniel; meeting us “where we are at”.
How We Will Pray
We have all felt lately that we can become burdened by such ‘busy-ness” we can mistakenly be annoyed or put-off in the places where we should have love.  We cannot conjure up this love on our own; it must come from asking for God’s grace for a heart aligned with His very own.  We will pray the Litany Of Humility, as copied below.  Some of us said we will put it on the fridge, and some of us said we plan to pray it before bed on our knees.  It is a good way to examine our hearts at the end of the day, so that we develop a heart purely resolute on loving others more than ourselves.
Litany of Humility 
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From
 the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From
 the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
 provided that I may become as holy as I should…

4 thoughts on “The Fifteenth Time

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