Every month, Connections offers stories, images, reflections and meditations relating to the themes of each Sunday’s readings.  Material comes from the evening news and the every day, from the stage and screen, from the music world and the marketplace – all designed to help homilists “connect” the world of Monday through Saturday with the Gospel proclaimed on Sunday.

To give you an idea of what Connections is all about, we’ve assembled the following sampling of stories, meditations and 'connecting' reflections from recent issues of Connections:

22nd Sunday of the Year /13th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 3, 2017]
23rd Sunday of the Year /14th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 10, 2017]
24th Sunday of the Year /15th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 17, 2017]
25th Sunday of the Year /16th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 24, 2017]

26th Sunday of the Year / 17th Sunday after Pentecost  [October 1, 2017]
27th Sunday of the Year / 18th Sunday after Pentecost  [October 8, 2017]
28th Sunday of the Year / 19th Sunday after Pentecost  [October 15, 2017]
29th Sunday of the Year / 20th Sunday after Pentecost  [October 22, 2017]
30th Sunday of the Year / 21st Sunday after Pentecost  [October 29, 2017]

Please note that, in every issue of Connections, we offer TWO stories/meditations for each Sunday’s Gospel.

After reviewing this “electronic sampler,” if you’d like information on subscribing – or receiving the next complete issue of ConnectionsCLICK HERE for subscription information and an order form.

Enjoy!  


21st Sunday of the Year /12th Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 16A]

Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah . . . you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . . ”
Matthew 16: 13-20

The only thing Kelli could offer

Kelli was a third-year medical student, on a rotation in oncology.  This particular day she was not her usual enthusiastic, upbeat self.  She was having doubts. 

“The only thing I have to offer is my compassion,” she confided to her supervisor.   “But now I wonder what my words can mean as I look at Sheila.  It’s all overwhelming.  I’m not sure I can keep doing this.”

Kelli’s supervisor understood; her doubts are an occupational hazard for doctors and nurses who treat the terminally ill. 

But over the next month, Kelli had several opportunities to practice her “only” contribution.
 
Sheila was the 35-year-old mother of four whose husband, Michael, was a nurse at Kelli’s hospital.  A persistent bout of “walking pneumonia” was finally diagnosed as metastic lung cancer.  Sheila began a demanding protocol of chemotherapy.  Sheila was able to share with Kelli the full range of emotions common to all who struggled with cancer: fear, anger, sadness, joy at small successes, and gratitude.  Kelli’s innate kindness and approachability helped Sheila get through those difficult weeks.

Another of Kelli’s patients was being treated for a condition called bronchiectasis.  Quite unexpectedly, his cough worsened and he went into respiratory distress, requiring him to be put on a ventilator.  The poor man was terrified as the medical team went to work.  Kelli stayed with him the whole time and explained every step of the procedure.
 
“Now, Mr. Bernard, I know this tube is uncomfortable, but we need it to help you breathe.  Hold my hand.  I’ll stay with you.”  And she did until he was settled and comfortable in the intensive care unit. 

Sheila’s husband, Michael, was on duty in ICU when Kelli and Mr. Bernard arrived.
Later in the day, at the end of rounds, Kelli and the other students were meeting with the supervising physician to review the day.  During the conversation, Michael poked his head into the room.

“Is Sheila alright?” the doctor asked, fearing the worst.

Michael seemed shaken and didn’t speak for a long time.

“I just wanted to tell you,” he began, “all of you, how much Sheila and I appreciate the care she’s getting.  It’s not just the medical stuff.  I mean that’s important, and we know she’s getting the best medical treatment available.  But’s it’s the way you take care of her — and me — that makes it so different.”

He then turned to Kelli.  “I was watching you hold that man’s hand.  I listened as you talked to him and I tell you, do you know how long it’s been since I’ve held anyone’s hand in there, or thought about how it must feel to be on one of those things . . . I want you to know, Kelli, that you, and each of you, have reminded me of something I had long forgotten.  And I won’t forget again to comfort those I take care of.”

Sometimes compassion — the only thing we can offer — is the most important and remembered gift we give.

[From “Regaining Compassion” by James W. Lynch, Jr., M.D., Journal of the American Medical Association, May 13, 1998.]

Kelli has learned that compassion is the “rock” of her work as a physician.  It is on that same “rock” that Jesus establishes his church, a community of men and women whose lives mirror the love, peace and justice of God.  In taking on God’s work of reconciliation, in our struggle to forgive selflessly and humbly, in our often less-than-successful attempts to imitate the compassion of Jesus, our church and parish reflect the face of God to our world.  


22nd Sunday of the Year /13th Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 17A]

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord!  No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do.”
“Those who wish to come after me must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow me.”
Matthew 16: 21-27

The Flying Eagle Patrol

When Brian Doyle was 13, he spent a “life term” — all right, 14 days — at a Boy Scout summer camp.  Young Brian quickly established himself as the worst camper there.  Tracking, swimming, canoeing, archery, woodcraft — the bespectacled Brian exhibited no talent or competence whatsoever.  His happiest times were just sitting on a knoll among the trees watching for birds and wondering about lunch.

Writing in The Christian Century (June 28, 2011), Brian remembers his experience with the Flying Eagle Patrol with surprising wonder and gratitude.

“I wonder now that the Flying Eagle Patrol was so gentle to me, it’s most useless member, and these were the years when boys were cruel to each other, for fear of being least and weakest; but they were kind, and I remember their totally genuine delight when I earned my single merit badge, for making both a roaring fire and a stew.  I remember their faces, around that startling fire, how they laughed — not at me for having finally done something well, but at the surprise of it; the gift of unexpectedness, perhaps.  Or maybe they were smiling at my probably hair-raising stew; but they ate every scrap of it, and the one among us who was best in the woods was the Eagle who quietly washed the pots and plates.

“Perhaps all these years later, I should remember my helplessness . . . but it’s the pots clean as a whistle that I remember, and the whistling of [a fellow] Eagle coming to retrieve me from my knoll high above the seas of trees.”

The Flying Eagle Patrol not only taught young Brian how to survive in the woods but also mirrored Jesus’ vision of a community  of disciples grounded in his example of selflessness and service.  Such a church, centered in the reality of the cross and the certainty of the resurrection, represents a value system that runs counter to our own; it compels us to make choices we would rather not make or opt for, to put ourselves and our own needs second for the common good, to step back to lift up the fallen and slow down to enable the weak and struggling to play their part in the life of the common good.  The life of the true disciple of Christ is one of generous, selfless and sacrificial service to others in order to bring the joy and hope of the resurrection into our lives and theirs.  Scouts honor!  


23rd Sunday of the Year /14th Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 18A]

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone . . . If he does not listen, take two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church . . .
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
Matthew 18: 15-20

Moving beyond the argument

Having an argument with someone we love is not unusual.  We all experience rifts of various degrees with family and friends.  There are times when we all act insensitively and say hurtful things.

The question is how we deal with those arguments and heal those rifts.
In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal (July 15, 2014), reporter Elizabeth Bernstein spoke with psychologists, therapists and counselors about how to best make up after an argument. 

One psychologist summarized the process this way:  “You don’t want to avoid [conflict].  You want to manage it.”

How?  The Journal article outlines five steps:

First:  Wait to talk.  Give time for both of you to calm down.  If one side is still “hot,” the other’s apology will only escalate the argument.

Second:  Give up the idea of being right.  Remember that each of you believes that you are right and the other is in the wrong.  Focus instead on each other’s feelings.

Third: Verbalize your understanding of how the other person feels:  “I understand that you are hurt because . . . “  And ask if you are correct.

Fourth:  Quash the impulse to defend yourself.  If you apologize and the other person says, “Yes, you behaved badly,” just nod your head.  Explain to the other that you really care about him or her and that you are willing to modify your behavior.

Fifth:  Accept the fact that it will take a while to feel better.  Care enough to check in later.  If each of you shows the other that you really care, the larger issues will resolve themselves.

And never use the word “but” in an apology.  “I’m sorry, but . . . ” undermines the entire purpose of apologizing.

The point of both The Wall Street Journal article and today’s Gospel is that reconciliation takes determined and focused work.  Elizabeth Bernstein offers several insights into healing a rift between family members and friends; Jesus outlines a process for reconciling a conflict within a community.  Discipleship is the hard work of building community and the harder work of reconciliation — work that is grounded in love for the other, work what begins with respect and love for every human being, work that seeks God’s justice and peace above all.  Gospel-centered reconciliation confronts those misunderstandings and issues that divide us, grieve us and embitter us, not out of anger or a need to “even the score,” but out of a commitment to imitate the great love and mercy of God.  


24th Sunday of the Year / 15th Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 19A]

The parable of the unforgiving debtor:  “‘Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’
“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives one another from your heart.”
Matthew 18: 21-35

The family circle

Imagine this scenario:

You are sitting one night with your family.  You are irritated, overtired and underappreciated.  Something happens to push you beyond your patience and you suddenly lose your temper.  You yell at everyone, tell them they are selfish and stupid, throw your coffee across the room, and stamp out, violently slamming the door to punctuate your anger.  Then you sit in your room, alienated and feeling utterly and helplessly alone.  Slowly, sanity and contrition overcome self-pity, but wounded pride and the rawness of what has just happened make it too embarrassing for you to go back and apologize.  Eventually, you fall asleep, leaving things in that unreconciled state.  The next morning, now doubly contrite and somewhat sheepish, but still wounded in pride, you come to the family table.  Everyone is sitting there having breakfast.  You pick up your coffee cup (which didn’t break and someone has washed and returned to its hook!), pour yourself some coffee, and without saying a word, sit down at the table — your remorse and your wounded pride showing in every move.  Your family is not stupid and neither are you.  Everyone knows what this means.  What is essential is being said, without words.  You are making the basic move toward reconciliation, your body and your actions are saying something more important than words:  I want to be part of you again.  At that moment, the hemorrhaging stops (even if only for that moment).  If you dropped dead on the spot, you would be reconciled with your family.

[From The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser.]

Real love creates a climate where forgiveness and understanding are readily given and received.  In all his parables on forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus calls anyone and everyone who would be his disciples to be committed to the work of reconciliation, to be always ready and willing to make the first move toward forgiveness, to be actively engaged in the work of creating community.  Forgiveness is not easy: it means overcoming our own anger and outrage at the injustice waged against us and focusing our concern, instead, on the person who wronged us and ruptured our relationship with him/her; it means possessing the humility to face the hurt we have inflicted on others as a result of our insensitivity and self-centeredness.  But only in forgiving and seeking forgiveness are we able to realize the possibility of bringing healing and new life to a pained and grieving situation.  Christ calls us to create within our families and communities that place and environment in which forgiveness is joyfully offered and humbly but confidently sought.  


25th Sunday of the Year / 16th Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 20A]

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
Matthew 18: 15-20

Small ‘c’ church

On a business trip to South America, he visited a small church in one of the poor barrios.  He was deeply moved by what he saw: the joy-filled faith of these families despite the overwhelming poverty of their daily lives.  When he returned home, he was telling some friends after Mass about what he had seen.  The group wondered what they could do to help, so they contacted the pastor of the barrio parish.  The priest expressed gratitude for any help, especially for the parish’s school and small clinic.  So the group collected school and medical supplies and shipped them; next they gathered up blankets and clothes; now they are raising money to dig a new well for the community.  They see themselves as just a group of friends doing what they are able to do for their South American brothers and sisters.  But, in truth, they are being church.

It’s known as “the list” — names and telephone numbers of folks in the parish who can be called day or night.  An elderly parishioner needs a ride to the doctor?  Call Susan.  The young couple struggling through her difficult pregnancy?  Sheila and Pat will make sure they have supper and groceries this week.  The one car of a family whose parents have been out of work for some time breaks down?  Neil knows what to do.  It is more than a list of numbers.  It is church.

When they were in grammar school, they participated in the parish’s vacation religious education program every summer and always had a great time.  Now that they are in high school, they return every July to serve as leaders and counselors — and often become big brothers and big sisters to the kids.  The adults who are responsible for the week’s program will tell you immediately that these teens make the program go.  They are more than a terrific group of generous teenagers.  They are church.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the “church” — not the institutional capital ‘C’ Church, but the lower-case ‘c’ church that is you and I, human beings who struggle to follow Jesus.  That is the important lesson of today’s Gospel: the ability of individuals who come together as disciples, inspired by the Gospel Jesus, to accomplish great works of compassion, reconciliation, healing and justice.  May the grace of God bring us together, even just two or three of us, in Jesus’ name, enabling us to mirror God’s love in our midst.   


26th Sunday of the Year / 17th Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 21]

The parable of the vineyard owner’s son and the wicked tenants: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes . . . ’”
Matthew 21: 28-32

Eden and Olivia

At first, Mom was repelled by the very idea.  Her teenage daughter wanted to get a pet rat?  Living in Brooklyn, the only rats she knew were those horrible little creatures scurrying across the subway tracks.  And their bad rap as carriers of disease didn’t help.

“No, Mom,” Olivia said, frustrated by her resistance.  “It wouldn’t be like that!  This would be a lab rat.  You’ll see.  They’re so sweet and really smart.”

Mom finally relented.  The next day, Olivia brought home Eden.  Eden was small and white, with a pink, hairless tail and ruby eyes, a rescue from the snake food cage at PetSmart.  At first Mom kept her distance as Olivia would feed her from own plate; the sight of Eden’s ropy tail curled around Olivia’s neck unnerved Mom — but Mom soon found Eden pretty adorable, as the little rodent held a noodle in her oddly human paws, gobbled it up and washed her face afterward.

But Eden proved to be more than adorable.  High school was not a happy place for Olivia, whose quiet personality didn’t fit into any of the Girlworld cliques.  Eden’s unconditional love proved to be a “soothing balm at home after a long day (there was just one infamous day when Olivia sneaked Eden into school, with consequences).  Olivia seemed to relish having a companion who was a misunderstood outsider, like herself.”

Mom soon came to appreciate the little, uh, rat:  “Even though she chewed holes in a few bath towels, and littered the table with nibbled bits of the morning’s scrambled egg, I couldn’t deny the beautiful way Eden softened the hard edges of school’s social craziness and academic pressure.  When I was a teenager I smoked cigarettes, got stoned and drank more than I could tolerate to alleviate my own social anxiety.  My daughter now had a rat to calm hers.  I only wish Eden had come into our family a few years earlier.”

Olivia is now in college — and Eden has made the trip with her.  “When I take care of Eden, it’s like taking care of myself,” Olivia says.

Enough said on the value of a little friend whose simple but essential needs keep Olivia mindful of her own best interests.

[From “My Daughter, Her Rat” by Julie Metz, The New York Times, August 24, 2014.]

Stones rejected:  A little white rat helps a teenager make her way through the storms of high school and adolescence to the promise of college and adulthood.  Like the tenants in today’s parable, we reject whatever scares us or threatens us, whatever we don’t understand, whatever challenges us and the safe little worlds we have built for ourselves.  But God’s Christ comes with a new, transforming vision for our “vineyard”: a vision of love rather than selfishness, of hope rather than cynicism, of peace rather than hostility, of forgiveness rather than vengeance.  May we have the courage and wisdom to look beyond the “stones” of our fears and welcome Christ (in whatever guise he may appear) into this vineyard of ours, aware that he calls us to the demanding conversion of the Gospel, but determined to sow and reap the blessings of God’s reign.   


27th Sunday of the Year / 18th Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 22]

The parable of the vineyard owner’s son:  “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruits.”
Matthew 21: 33-43

The curse of the monster watermelons

Once upon a time, there was a man who traveled to a strange land.  There he saw people fleeing in horror from a wheat field.  There was a horrible monster in the field!  they screamed.  The traveler went into the field himself and found the monster – a watermelon.  The villagers had never seen a watermelon before.  Trying to be kind, he offered to “kill” the monster for them.  He hacked the melon off the vine and then cut a slide and began to eat it.  The people became even more terrified of the traveler.  He will eat us too! they cried, and then drive him off with their pitchforks.

Some time later, another traveler to same village found himself confronted by the same “monster.”  But instead of offering to “kill” the monster, he told the villagers that it must be dangerous and tiptoed away from it.  Gaining the confidence of the villagers, the second traveler was able to teach the villagers some elementary horticultural facts about the “monster” in their midst.  The villagers lost their fear of the melons and began to cultivate them for food.

The first traveler, while trying to help the villagers, only intensified their fear; his knowledge became even more powerful and terrifying to the villagers.

But the second traveler was a man of compassion: he entered into their fears, suffered with them, and then was able to help them rise above their fears.

[Based on a story told by Rev. Henri J.M. Nouwen.]

In the person of his Son, God enters the human experience.  He lives our lives, embraces our fears and hardships, and shows us to transform and re-create our lives in his love.  Faith is not a power bestowed on an self-elected elite nor is God a cudgel we swing to impose our sense of right and wrong on others; faith is the awareness of God’s presence in our lives, a presence that should humble us with gratitude and inspire us with hope to continue our journey to the dwelling place of God.


28th Sunday of the Year / 19th Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 23]

The parable of the king’s wedding banquet:  “‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ 
“But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’  But he was reduced to silence.”
Matthew 22: 1-14

‘Thrift Store Saints’

Fifteen years ago, Jane Knuth, a math teacher and mom, began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She approached the work with typical baby-boomer hard-charging determination to “fix the world” — but over the years, the experience changed her.  The poor and desperate she has been able to help have deepened her own faith and brought her to a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jane Knuth has collected stories of her experiences at “St. Vinnie’s” in a delightful book Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25c at a Time.  Thrift Store Saints includes some two dozen stories about the volunteers and patrons of the St. Vincent’s thrift shop.  The Kalamazoo thrift store sells everything from furniture and clothing to basic household items, but also offers financial assistance, referral services — and prayerful and emotional support — to the needy and lost.

Rather than viewing society’s poor as problems to be solved, Jane and her colleagues see them each in a completely different light: as saints who can lead us straight to the heart of Christ.  Jane Knuth writes:

“From all appearances, it looks as if we are running a thrift store at St. Vincent de Paul.  At our meetings we frequently get into discussions about how to better run the store.  Should we raise our prices?  Give away less?  Not accept so many donations?  Lock our dumpster?  Move to a better retail location?  All these issues would come up with any resale shop.  Eventually, it occurs to us that our purpose is not to run the most profitable, shrewd, efficient, riff-raff-free store in town.  Our purpose is to help the poor and to change our way of thinking and being.  It only looks as though we run a store.  The store is just our cover . . .

“I still keep looking for the ‘deserving poor’ – the innocent ones who are blatant victims of injustice and hard luck.  I want to help them and no one else.  From what I can see, apart from children, most poor people’s situations seem to stem from a mixture of uncontrollable circumstances, luck, and their own decisions.  Same as my situation.  Do I deserve everything I have?  Am I somehow more moral, smarter, or a harder worker than poor people?  Sometimes I am, most times I’m not.  Do poor people deserve their daily struggle for existence?  Are they immoral, stupid, and lazy?  Sometimes they are, most times they aren’t.”

God’s image of his human family is realized in the kindness and charity extended by a small thrift store.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus articulates the Father’s vision for humanity: a “banquet” at which all are respected and honored for who they are and the goodness they bring to the king’s table, be it the “table” of the classroom, the clinic, the playground, the home.  If we are to be truly faithful to God’s vision, the compassion of God must transform our heart’s perspective, enabling us to see beyond ethnic stereotypes, economic distinctions, class and celebrity, to recognize every man, woman and child as made in the same image and likeness of God in which we were all created; we must be willing both to give joyfully what we have and to accept humbly what others bring to the table.  God’s “banquet” is only realized when we embrace a radically new vision of humanity, a perspective that ignores suspicions, doubts and stereotypes and, instead, recognizes everyone, first, as a child of God, worthy of respect, love and compassion.  


29th Sunday of the Year / 20th Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 24]

[Jesus] said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?"
They replied, “Caesar’s."
At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Matthew 22: 15-21

A patient’s worth, in billing codes

A psychiatrist writes about the dollars-and-cents side of treating patients:

“A patient wants solutions; at least, he wants attentiveness.  He is preoccupied with the failings of his life. 

“But I’m preoccupied, too: with counting.  If I document one element of his family or social history in the electronic medical record, it’s considered ‘pertinent,’ but two ‘established elements’ — or three ‘new elements’ — are ‘complete’ and worth more.  One-to-five findings on the psychiatric exam are ‘problem-focused,’ but if there are six, the exam becomes ‘expanded problem focused,’ which is also worth more.  Reviewing old records is two data points, but reviewing lab tests only one.  Counting, counting.

“These numbers add up to a billing code; these billing codes add up to Medicare reimbursement.  You combine history complexity plus examination bullets plus medical decision-making plus risk, and out of the confusion an accurate code is supposed to pop clearly into view.”

The doctor keeps a crib sheet on a corner of her desk: a list of key components of the Current Procedural Terminology codes.  It’s a kind of “scorecard” she must use to determine what treatment will or will not be covered by a patient’s insurance.

While such formulas are necessary to check charts for Medicare fraud, this doctor worries that sometimes she becomes distracted in treating her patients, becoming more concerned with listening for the “worth” of their diagnosis rather than the key to their healing.

[From “A patient’s worth, in billing codes” by Dr. Elissa Ely, The Boston Globe, August 3, 2013.]

We seek surety in numbers; we look for black and white answers to complex questions.  We devise formulas to define every set of circumstances; we depend on society’s structures and institutions — government, medicine, education, business — to set clear, indisputable rules to decide complex issues and situations once and for all.  But God transcends the lines we have drawn and the boundaries we have set up in order to make sense of our lives.  God calls us to realize his hand in all things, his spirit making all things whole and good, his vision creating a human family united in his peace, justice and mercy.  We cannot put a “price tag” on compassion; we cannot assign a value to forgiveness; we cannot measure or limit the justice and peace of God.  In the love of God, we come to understand our shared responsibility to provide for the common good and protect the most vulnerable among us.  


30th Sunday of the Year / 21st Sunday after Pentecost  [PROPER 25]

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 34-40

Blood brother

True story:

An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia.  His parents explained to him that she needed a blood transfusion and that his blood was probably compatible.  They asked if they could test his blood.  Sure, he said.  The results showed that his blood would be a good match.  Then they asked the boy if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance at living.  He said he would like to think about overnight.

The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate his blood to his sister.  So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his sister.  Both of them were hooked up to IVs.  A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put into the girl’s IV.  The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister. 

The doctor came over to see how he was doing.  The boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon I until I start to die?”

[Jack Kornfield, cited in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.]

Every word of the Gospel comes down to love – love that is simple enough to articulate but so demanding that we shy away from it.  The mystery of God’s love is that the Being of Supreme and Omnipotent Power should love his creation so completely and so selflessly – and all God seeks in return is that such love be shared by his people throughout his creation.  The little brother, thinking that giving his blood would mean he would die, nonetheless is willing to give his life to his sister so that she might live; in his generosity, he models the great love and compassion of the God who spares nothing to bring us to him.  May we seek to follow the great commandment of the Gospel: to love with the same selfless compassion, care and completeness of God.