Feburary 15, 2015


Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him …. – Mark 1: 41

   When personalized license plates were introduced in Illinois, the Dept. of Motor Vehicles received over a thousand requests for the number “1”. The state official in charge said, “I’m not about to assign it to someone & disappoint a thousand people.” His solution was to assign the number to himself. A little boy & girl were riding a mechanical horse in a shopping mall. The little boy (riding in front) said, “If one of us would get off, there would be more room for me.”

   We pride ourselves on our creativity. Yet nowhere is it more apparent than in our ability to discover original ways to commit the original sin. It all began in the Garden of Eden when Satan convinced Adam & Eve that he had found a way for them to move God over & become number one. We keep looking for ways to succeed where Adam & Eve failed. We look for ways to be first on everyone else’s priority list, to be first in line, first at the checkout counter, first getting out of the parking lot. We look for ways to win at the game of “first come, first served.” But these are mere symptoms of the real problem, which is that we look for ways to be known as followers of Christ without following His example.

   Lent is a season when we consciously focus on His example & try to put it into practice in our own lives. But what is that example? Put simply, it is sacrifice, born of a love that we do not deserve & cannot earn. Moreover, the special objects of that love are the ones among us who need it the most: the weak, the helpless, the lonely, the disenchanted, & the dispossessed. A man in tattered clothes was begging for money on a street in Russia. The author Tolstoy came along & (after finding no coins in his pocket) said, “I’m sorry, my brother, but I don’t have any money on my person.” The beggar’s melancholy expression was transformed into a grateful smile as he said, “You have given me more than I asked for. You have called me brother.”

   In God’s economy of salvation, no one is number 1 because everyone is number 1. Jesus even went to the cross for those who hated & feared Him to prove He means it. When confronted with human need, we too easily look for ways NOT to get involved. As today’s Gospel shows, that is not the case with our Lord. He does not ask questions or protest. He simply says, “I do will it. Be cured.”

   He will do the same for us IF we will let Him. The problem is we deny that there is any problem, much less any need for His help. Someone has said, “The smallest package in the world is the person who is all wrapped up in himself.” St. Paul wrote, “If we live by the spirit, let us also walk by the spirit. Let us have no self-conceit” (Gal. 5: 25).

   After hearing a sermon on pride, a woman approached the priest with a confession. “I feel guilty,” she said. “This morning, before coming to church, I committed the sin of pride. I sat for an hour in front of my mirror admiring my beauty.” The priest replied, “My dear, that wasn’t pride; that was imagination!”

   “My soul magnifies the Lord,” begins the beautiful Magnificat of Mary, “He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1: 46, 51). If we could manage, even a little, to scatter the vain imaginings we have about ourselves between now & Easter, it would be the best Valentine we could send to our Lord. AMEN!