Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Lk 6:36-38 Janitors and Cookies

Lk 6:36-38 Janitors and Cookies

(Click here for readings)


Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you.”


Back in 1997, I was a young, healthy, immature, obnoxious at times, and judgmental seminarian working in an all-boys academy in Wisconsin. As the Dean of Discipline, I learned a lot my first year, but not enough. It was my first “job” as a seminarian and working in a boarding school. It was my first time ever working with Mexican students. It was a tough assignment. I worked 24/7. But it was an amazing experience in which the Lord supplied ample opportunities for me to grow in faith, in wisdom and in love.


One of those “opportunities” arrived on the very last day of the school year. Enrique, a twelve year old, had successfully completed his first year at the Academy. In fact, he had won the highest award offered at the Academy, the Integer Award. This young man was truly an outstanding young man and a brilliant student. While he was waiting for his ride home, I sat with him and we talked. A few minutes into our conversation, Henry walked in. Henry was a man in his late fifties. He was a janitor and at that time had been working at the Academy for at least ten years. I was the new kid on the block and never really had a chance to introduce myself to him. He was a simple and humble man who never made his presence known. While I was talking to Enrique, Henry went about his business sweeping the floor and keeping a safe distance from us. At that, I seized the moment and began to lecture the young mind sitting next to me about success and failure. I told him, “You see that man? This man will work like a slave all his life. What a waste of a life. What a waste of time. He had the opportunity to study and he didn’t take advantage of it. He probably messed up in High School by getting drunk at too many parties and spending way too much time with his friends. He most likely never read a book in his life. God knows what he spends all his time doing now.” While I was speaking to Enrique, I could see that he got the message. This kid had a lot of respect for me. After all, I was the religious and moral figure at the school.


As we were getting up to leave, Henry looked up and came towards Enrique and me. He smiled and said, “Hello Father!” I smiled and said, “Oh Henry, I’m not a priest yet. I’m still a seminarian.” I thought to myself, “This guy doesn’t even know that I am not a priest yet.” Thinking about it later on, I realized that he didn’t know because I never took the time to speak to him. Henry continued, “Sorry Father, I didn’t know that. I was just hoping that maybe you could bless my family if you ever had a free moment. Have I ever shown you a picture of my kids?” I replied, “No. Never.” He began to fumble through his wallet, looking for a picture. In the meantime, I was rolling my eyes. I looked at my little protégé as if I was annoyed. Finally he found a picture. He handed it over to me and I was shocked at what I saw. Henry and his wife were white. His children were not. One little boy was African American, a little girl was Asian. And another child, Asian, was physically challenged. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I asked Henry, “Are these your children.” He said, “Yes, Father, aren’t they beautiful? My wife and I adopted all three of them. We are so blessed.”


At that moment, I felt a lump in my throat and I thought to myself: “What an idiot I am. Who are you to judge others? This man is a Saint! A simple, humble, Saint!


“I didn’t know?” was all I could say. He looked at me and smiled, “Well, maybe next year we can sit and talk once in a while. I would love to tell you my story.”


He walked away and continued sweeping the floor. He should have swept me up too!


That day, God had given me a great big kick in the behind that I would never forget. To this day, with a lot of embarrassment, I tell this story (his and mine) to all the students I meet. Henry will probably never know the impact he has had in my life and in the lives of all the kids that pray for him.


Today’s responsorial psalm is more like a plea: “Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.”


The problem with judging others is not so much what we say to them. The problem with judging others is that we never say anything to them! It’s not a sin to come up to someone and tell them what you honestly think. What is a sin is to never come up to them and continue to talk about them. It’s so easy to judge others because it’s so easy to keep a safe distance from them and continue to just think and imagine who and what they are.


Today, I handed a box of cookies to a young lady at school who I thought was not paying attention to my homily. She looked up and was shocked that I would give her cookies. I told her, “These are for you. Just make sure to share them with all your enemies!” Before she could think, she said, “Thank you, Father!” Sometimes it is better not to think at all when you are giving or receiving.


We are all used to receiving cookies from our friends. But maybe, just maybe, if I can get closer to my “enemies” with some cookies, then I may very well turn my cookies into friends.

3 comments:

  1. Your meditation for the day reminds me of one of the readings from the Liturgy of the Hours: James 4:11 - "Do not speak of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges a brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and one judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?"

    This past week, your themes of God's surprises in our lives and "explosion of love" we all should experience as Christians is profound! Yet, I'm shocked to read you once didn't "practice what you preach" as a young seminarian. Honestly, I don't know if I'd respect you as much back then, Father! I certainly wouldn't want my teenage son seeking counsel from you for fear you'd instill a judgmental mentality on my precious child! It's all "too logical" for us to assume because someone is in a position considered menial such as janitor, house keeper, dish washer, etc. that he/she is lazy, stupid, illiterate, or lacks ambition. However, when we think of others in terms of "love" then we see the gifts they provide for the entire Christian community even in the jobs that nobody wants or cares about.

    Judging and gossiping about others has to be one of the most common sins everybody experiences. It's difficult in our secular American culture not to think ill of others or stereotype them.

    During Lent, I've tried to be less judgmental and critical of others. I try to think of everyone as a child of God with unique charisms. I was a victim of judgmental mentality once at St. Joseph because of the way I dressed at Mass one Sunday. It made me feel absolutely terrible, and I was bitterly angry to be under attack. But, over time I forgave the person for his harsh criticism. I dressed more modestly and haven't had an issue since. (I threw out the dress that was considered too short!) In all, if this gentleman had approached me instead of blasting an email to everyone saying I was "trolling for a man in the way I dress" then it would not have stung me so terribly.

    Keep up the wonderful insights!!!

    Blessings,

    -Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
  2. It takes true humility to share some of the stories you tell on yourself Fr Alfonse! I really appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete

Updated: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. Comments must be concise and to the point.Comments are no longer accepted for posts older than 7 days.