The Mouse

A Mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. He wondered with great curiosity, “What food might this contain?”  He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.  Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning.  “There is a mousetrap in the house; there is a mousetrap in the house!”

 The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”

 The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house!”  The pig sympathized but said, “I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray.  Be assured that you are in my prayers.”

 The mouse turned to the cow.  She said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse.  I’m sorry for you. But it’s no skin off my nose.”

 So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.  That very night a sound was heard throughout the house like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.  The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught.  In the darkness she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.  The snake bit the farmer’s wife.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.  Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient. 

 But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. 

The farmer’s wife did not get well.  She died and so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

And so it was that the mouse’s problem was in reality a problem for the others.  Many times in history seemingly good people turned a blind eye to some evil going on around them, thinking “This doesn’t concern me!”  They were left to find out later just how wrong they were.  Some good folks watched as the Nazi’s began to lock-up Jews for no reason other than their ethnicity.  Later, many of them faced the same atrocities and all of them faced a world war.  In our world today, there are many similar issues that we hear about and it is easy to say, “That doesn’t concern me!”

The world is getting smaller and smaller as our technology grows.  Atrocities in the Sudan, where certain tribes are being sold as slaves by militants of a different religion; atrocities in Southeast Asia, where children are being kidnaped and sold into prostitution;  travelers are being killed to sell their organs on the black market…etc…etc.  Perhaps such things will come back to eventually impact us directly.  If something bad or unjust is going on with someone else, it could easily happen to us and those we love.

This story of the mouse wasn’t about the whole world…just a farm.  So it is that we should also focus on our little piece of the world.  It can be so very easy to simply focus on “ME” and my needs…my concerns.  It is so very possible that the problems of others could easily impact us down the road.  When one of our family members, our friends, our neighbors, or our co-workers is going through some difficult problems…instead of “This doesn’t concern me!” perhaps all of us should be thinking…”How can I help!” “Love your neighbor as yourself” takes on a whole different meaning when one considers what might happen when we don’t do that.  “This doesn’t concern me!”… Well, it just might!  As the old commercial said:  “You can pay me now or you can pay me later!”

In case someone might be saying: ”Well just who is my neighbor?”  It might be good for that person to read Luke 10 again.  I say again because most everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan.  Someone asked Jesus that very question and He told him that story.  A man was left for dead by thieves and two very respectable and religious people ignored his plight completely.  Then the Samaritan (a group of people hated and despised by the Jews of Jesus’ day came.  Here’s the end of that story:

And when he (the Samaritan) saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

With love in Christ,

Fr. Stephen

 

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The Hawk

Many years ago I read the following story from a book that we were using with our children. After all this time, this one story has always stuck with me. I am reminded of it again and again while driving…seeing some drivers (and sometimes myself) consumed with anger over a slower car or an untimely light…and that anger caused them to pass on a double striped line or shake an angry fist at some little ol’ lady. This story holds many applications…hope you enjoy it!!

Genghis Khan (1162-1227) was a mighty king and warrior, considered equal to Alexander the Great. His Mongol empire reached from the Sea of Japan all the way to Eastern Europe. Here’s a story from his life that will speak to many of us.

One morning when Genghis Khan was home from the wars, he rode out into the woods for a day of hunting. On the king’s wrist sat his favorite hawk which had been trained to hunt. The day was quite hot and the king grew very thirsty. His hawk had flown off, probably in search of water, the king thought.

Hawk

A drought had made water scarce and he search long and hard trying to locate a stream. He finally located what was usually a swift stream, now reduced to a drop at a time flowing down over the edge of a high rock. The thirsty king grabbed his silver cup from his saddle bag and ran to the dripping water. It took quite a while to fill the cup. At long last the cup was almost full and he raised it to his lips for that long awaited drink. Suddenly, there was a whirring sound above his head and the cup was knocked from his hands. The king looked up with anger and saw that it was his hawk that had spilled the water all over the ground. The hawk flew back and forth and then landed on the rock high above the water.

hawk 2The king once again began the slow process of filling the cup. When it was only half full, he could wait no longer. As he lifted it to his lips, the hawk again swooped down, knocking the cup from his hands. His anger growing, he tried a third time to get some water, but again the hawk prevented his drinking. He was furious and drew his sword. He yelled at the hawk, “This will be your last mistake if you try it again!” He filled the cup once more and began to lift it to his lips. Once again the hawk began to swoop down toward the cup, but this time the king was ready for him. With an angry slash of his sword he struck down the hawk in mid-flight. As the hawk lay dying on the ground the king said spitefully, “That’s what you get for your trouble!”

His cup had fallen from his hand into a crevice in the rocks. He couldn’t reach it. He decided he would have to climb the steep rocks to get to the spring above in order to satisfy his thirst. The climb was arduous and he became even more thirsty. At last he reached the spring and there in the pool of water was the most poisonous snake in the country laying dead. The sight stopped the king in his tracks. He forgot his thirst. His only thoughts were of the dead hawk down below. “The hawk saved my life” he cried, “and how did I repay him? He was my best friend and I killed him. I have learned a sad lesson today: never do anything in anger.”

There are many ways we can apply this to our lives, whether it is driving in our cars, playing softball, situations both at home and at work, or just about any aspect of daily life. If you’d like more food for thought, consider the following verses of Holy Scripture:

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov. 22:24).

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Prov. 29:11).

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (Prov. 29:22).

For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife” (Prov. 30:33).

Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5).

In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph. 4:26).

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (Jms. 1:19-20).

May the Lord help us all as we deal with those little or big seeds of anger in our lives. May we not “kill” the hawks around us!!

Monument to Self

 

I once had an opportunity to visit a monument.   Even guide books warned against taking any time to visit this place.  One book said it was a monument built by a wealthy man to honor himself.  Another stated:  “you will be sorely disappointed. Very rarely does someone go to visit the monument with the sole purpose of seeing it.”

For some reason I was intrigued to see a monument that someone built to honor self.  What could it possibly look like?  What would someone fashion to “immortalize” himself?  Inquiring minds want to know…well at least my curiosity got the best of me and I turned off the highway to make the drive in to see it.  No road signs indicated the direction; it was simply marked in a guide book.

Monument to Self

The monument was in a beautiful location and it was amazing to see this large concrete structure, complete with stairs out in the middle of nowhere really.  Surrounded by beautiful greenery with the sun shining down gave it a very nice appearance.  As I walked up, I found myself wondering what words or symbols might be found that would be worthy of such self-praise.  Who was this man and what would he put on his monument to be remembered by for all generations to come?

Monument to Self closeupAs I came closer, I began to realize the monument had seen better days.  The concrete was broken and cracked.  Whatever plaques or busts that had once adorned it were long gone.  There were holes in the concrete where perhaps the tribute and a replica of the face of the man were once mounted.  As you can see from the picture, it has become a monument to no one as it slowly falls apart.

The guidebooks were wrong in my case.  It wasn’t a waste of my time.  In fact, I found it very thought provoking and in many ways inspirational.  I found myself pondering this whole concept of building a monument to honor one’s self…of “making a name for one’s self.”  If someone were to build an incredible monument, would people remember them for all generations to come?  Such incredible monuments have been built over the years, so perhaps we should consider these monuments and see the results for ourselves.

It seems that from the very beginning, people have had a desire to build monuments that would “make a name for themselves.”  Remember the story of the Tower of Babel and the reason things went bad:  “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves”  (Genesis 11:1-10).  What a monument that would have been!  But even if they had succeeded, history would show that it just wouldn’t have lasted.  Where is the “monument” that King Nebuchadnezzar built which was 90 feet tall (Daniel 3)?  Gone forever…we have no idea what became of it.

Here are some of the original Wonders of the Ancient World.  These were monuments that had everyone in awe and they thought these monuments would surely last forever:

We can’t go see a single one of those today.  Great nations built these incredible monuments and all of them are gone from this earth.  If great nations can’t build monuments to themselves that will last for generations to come, why in the world should I consume my life with such endeavors?

There is really only one path to greatness and it is found in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Himself.  He said it in several different ways, but basically He said:  “If you want to be great in God’s Kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.”  Greatness with God is the only thing that really should be important to us and it doesn’t come with our own self-exaltation.  “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

These spiritual “monuments” that we can build are all about others…not about ourselves.  We have a chance to leave a legacy to the next generation, but it is not going to be found in building monuments to self.  It is found in keeping the Faith alive…in making sure the next generations have a place to worship the Lord…in living lives that honor the Lord and draw others to Him…lives of service to Him and to others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2).  Wow…to be shining as lights in the world! That sounds so much better than a monument to self that falls apart and is gone.

By your prayers,

Fr. Stephen

The Four Wives

Once upon a time there was a rich King who had four wives.   He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best and was always concerned for her well-being.

He also loved the 3rd wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms.  However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another.   He kept a tight hold on her.

He also loved his 2nd wife. She was his confidant and was always kind, considerate and patient with him.  Whenever the King faced a problem, he could go to her, and she would help him get through the difficult times.  She brought him a sense of joy and made him laugh whenever he was with her.

The King’s 1st wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and kingdom.  However, he did not love the first wife.  Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her and gave her no food or clothing.

One day, the King fell ill and he knew his time was short.  He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, “I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I’ll be all alone.”

Thus, he asked the 4th wife, “I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I’m dying will you follow me and keep me company?”  “No way!”, replied the 4th wife, and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.

The sad King then asked the 3rd wife, “I have loved you all my life.  Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?”  “No!”, replied the 3rd wife. “Life is too good!  When you die, I’m going to remarry!”  His heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the 2nd wife, “I have always turned to you for help and you’ve always been there for me.  When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?”  “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!”, replied the 2nd wife. “At the very most, I can only send you to your grave.”  Her answer came like a bolt of lightning, and the King was devastated.

Then a voice called out: “I’ll leave with you and follow you no matter where you go.”  The King looked up, and there was his first wife.  She was so skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect.  Greatly grieved, the King said, “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!”

In truth, we all have 4 wives in our lives:

Our 4th wife is our body.  No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die.

Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth.  When we die, it will all go to others.

Our 2nd wife is our worldly pleasures– all the things that seem to help us escape the problems in life.  No matter how we have relied on such pleasures, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.

And our 1st wife is our Soul…often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasures of this world.  However, our Soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go.

As we consider what important things we should try to accomplish in 2016, this parable helps put things in perspective. Certainly our bodies are important and we should take good care of ourselves. We are also called to be good stewards of our wealth and possessions. And, there is nothing wrong with enjoying some of the good pleasures of life like a vacation or dining out.

But each of these things pale when we consider what is of eternal importance. May 2016 find us strengthening our souls with spiritual exercises, being good stewards of our souls by setting aside proper time each day to nourish it, and experiencing the joys of seeing our souls flourish through our wonderful Sacramental life (Holy Communion, Holy Confession, etc).

Remember those 3 wives that abandoned the King when he needed them the most. Only one was of eternal worth. May we all take better care of that one while we can!!

A blessed and joyous 2016 to each of you!!

With much love and prayers,

Fr. Stephen