October 21, 2012


Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. – Mark 10: 43

   Throughout the Gospels there is evidence of a power play going on among the twelve disciples – each one wanting a special position & privileges. Clearly, this is one human trait that hasn’t changed in 2,000 years! Our Lord’s response is equally clear: our calling is to a servant ministry.

   In our individualistic age, one hears a great deal about self-fulfillment. Lots of money & ink has been consumed in pursuit of it. Someone asked Charlie Brown what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said, “I want to be outrageously happy.” Of course, we all want to be happy & fulfilled. But there is something called the happiness paradox: the more we concentrate on finding it, the more elusive it becomes.

   Sadie Virginia Thompson lived in Johnson Falls, West Virginia. She desperately wanted to be a member of the Laurel Literary Society (a must for any woman wanting to climb the social ladder), but was never invited because she sewed for a living, & her father worked in a livery stable. In 1914, she decided to travel to Europe in hopes of enhancing her social position.  She arrived just as World War I started.

   This disrupted her itinerary, & she found herself stranded in Belgium. A French army officer offered to give her a ride to Paris, but on the way they got lost & found themselves in a battle area. She heard a wounded soldier moaning for water, & gave him some.  When the officer insisted on leaving the area, she refused. Something had happened to her.

   She stayed among the soldiers all that night giving them water, binding their wounds, even tearing her skirt to make bandages. It was a turning point in her life. As she later told a friend after returning home:

“I’d never known what it was to have children, but that night all those men were my children, even the biggest & roughest of them, & I believe I could have died for any one of them. I reckon being so crazy with pity had stretched me out of being a scary old a maid into being a mother.”

   Her friend said, “Well, the Laurel Literary Society would be glad to have you join now.” Sadie replied, “I’ve been face to face with war & death and hell and God. Do you reckon any of them little old things matter now?”

   Being created in the image of God doesn’t mean being little copies of God, but to image God, to reflect in our lives the life & glory of God Himself. By doing so to a unique degree, Jesus has shown us what it means to be truly human. If we want to find ourselves, to be fulfilled & happy, we must look for Jesus. Finding Him means having our priorities turned upside down, & this is a process, not a one-time event.

   There are many kinds of wounds beside the physical kind. Perhaps each of us in our own way will be fortunate enough to discover what really matters in life like Sadie did. For those who do, there is no need to justify the mission of the Church throughout the world.

   On World Mission Sunday, we focus on the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which helps to provide people with the one thing no one can do without: hope.

   For example, when a hurricane devastated an area known as Bluefields in Nicaragua in 1989, their bishop, Salvador Berg, an American, visited his people afterwards. They requested a “Mass of Thanksgiving to thank God that they were alive & ready to rebuild.” He offered that mass in a roofless, rain-soaked cathedral next to which he was buried when he died in 1993. Society funds helped to support the work of the Church there. Here is an opportunity for us to discover what really matters. It can provide us with one small step along the path toward outrageous happiness.  AMEN!