February 3, 2008


He began to teach them…. – Mt. 5: 2

Irma was a certifiably crazy patient in a mental hospital. She told everyone, whether they asked or not, that she was the daughter of an African princess & a black tiger (she was white). Those who spoke with her soon realized that her inner world was perfectly integrated – only her starting point was bizarre. Once you accepted the starting point, her logic was flawless. Everything flowed from it.

The psychiatrist explained that mental illness lies in the starting point, in the imagination, in the seeing, & not in the logic. What made Irma sick of mind was that she only absorbed information that reinforced her flawed way of seeing life.

We can be much like Irma, locked in our own closed world, in our own blindness; & that can make us sick of soul, if not of mind. Think how we were trained. From the moment we are born, we are bombarded with images of the “good life”: expensive cars, exotic travel, constant entertainment, beautiful houses, beautiful people, & lots of electronic toys. We are told that the perfect lifestyle consists of total freedom, with no rules & endless consumption. Any dissident images, perhaps of people who are poor or starving or needy, are filtered out, much like the absence of windows in a casino keep out any view of the real world. Life is a ball.

Saints are people who have broken out of the world, out of the marketplace, & who have learned to see the way Jesus sees. As Rabbi Harold Kushner writes in his book, Who needs God? : “Religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers or a series of rituals. Religion is first & foremost a way of seeing. It can’t change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, & that in itself can often make a difference.”

All Christians by virtue of their baptism are saints, & that means we are called to see with the eyes of Christ & act on what we see. In so doing, we see what is important, what really matters, & hints of the divine. Here is a small example:

The shocked family was standing on the sidewalk in front of their house, watching the firemen swarming in & out. A grease fire had severely damaged the kitchen & smoke was saturating everything they owned. They watched in dismay as the fire was put out – holes in the walls, scorched beams, broken dishes – a real mess.

Suddenly a pizza delivery car stopped at the curb, & a young man hopped out bearing a large pizza. The father looked annoyed & said sharply, “Look, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong address. Obviously,” gesturing toward the damaged house, “none of us ordered a pizza & besides my wallet was in my jacket – in the kitchen.”

The pizza guy smiled, shook his head, & said, “Oh, I know you didn’t order this but I saw you all just standing there & I had to do something. There is no charge. Just try to take it easy & have something to eat.” With that he returned to his car & sped off as the astonished family watched.

How many saw the fire & just shook their heads or drove on? How many saw the people in need? At least one young man saw, & decided to so something about it.

Lent is a time for readjusting the personal glasses through which we see life. Hopefully, by the time it is over, we will have let our Lord teach us how to see the world & people as He does, & act upon it. AMEN!