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:

18th Sunday of the Year / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost  [August 2, 2020]
19th Sunday of the Year / Tenth Sunday after Pentecost  [August 9, 2020]
20th Sunday of the Year / 11th Sunday after Pentecost  [August 16, 2020]
21st Sunday of the Year / 12th Sunday after Pentecost  [August 23, 2020]
22nd Sunday of the Year / 13th Sunday after Pentecost  [August 30, 2020]

23rd Sunday of the Year /14th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 6, 2020]
24th Sunday of the Year /15th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 13, 2020]
25th Sunday of the Year /16th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 20, 2020]
26th Sunday of the Year /17th Sunday after Pentecost  [September 27, 2020
]

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!  


18th Sunday of the Year [A] / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 13A]

Taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
Matthew 14: 13-21

A storyteller’s loaves and fish

The late Brian Doyle was one of the most gifted storytellers and spiritual writers of our time.  He authored several books of essays and poems, including two novels, Mink River and Chicago.

As it was for so many, the horrors of September 11, 2001 were especially devastating to Doyle.  Three good friends died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.  A few days after 9/11, a magazine called and asked Doyle to contribute to a special issue.  He declined.  That evening, he explained to his wife, Mary, “I said no, because what is there is say?  I am not adding to the ocean of witless commentary and vengeful rant.  The only thing to do is pray in whatever language and to whatever mercy you pray to, ideally silently, because if ever silence was eloquent now is the time.”

That’s when his eight-year-old daughter asked, “But, Dad, what are you going to do if you don’t write anything? 

“Dad, no offense, but you are always lecturing us about how if God gives you a tool, and you don’t use that tool, that’s a sin, and Dad, no offense, but you only have the one tool.  You say this yourself all the time, you say you stink at everything else except catching and sharing stories, so if you are not going to catch and share stories, isn’t that a sin?  Actually, isn’t that three sins, because three of your friends were murdered?  Isn’t that right?”

Brian Doyle wrote that his daughter’s question was life-changing for him.

“I think sometimes now that for me there was my life before that moment, when I was a writer intent on writing well and being published and selling books and earning a little extra cash so we could almost break even as a family, and there was after that moment, when I saw that my real work was to tell bigger stories than the thugs and liars of the world . . . Can we use humor and imagination as the most astounding weapons ever?  Can I, can we, catch and share stories of defiant grace and unthinkable courage and unimaginable forgiveness?  I think maybe so.  I think maybe so.  And I think maybe so because in my kitchen a child looked up at me and called me out of my old self into a new one.”

[From “After” by Brian Doyle, published in C21 Resources, Fall 2016, published by the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College.]

When confronted by his disciples with the need to feed the crowds, Jesus first challenges them to give something from what they have.  At first the disciples say, “We have nothing.”  But they manage to scrape together a few pieces of bread and fish — and with that, Jesus works a miracle.  Whatever pieces of bread and fish we have and are willing to give for the good of others, God can take and transform them into something good and healing and affirming.  As Brian Doyle’s eight-year-old daughter challenges him to use his skills as a writer and storyteller to bring a measure of grace to the devastated of 9/11, Jesus challenges us to give of our “nothing” with faith that God can transform our “scraps” into manifestations of his loving presence in our midst.  


19th Sunday of the Year [A] / Tenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 14A]

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were terrified.  “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
When Peter saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14: 22-33

“Why do you doubt?”

A nurse returned from a month-long stint serving a volunteer in a mobile clinic in Haiti.  Once back home, she asked to meet with her parish’s pastoral council.  She talked excitedly about her trip and passionately about the needs of the Haitian people.  She showed pictures of the people she met and served — including a small church where the clinic set up shop.  “Do you think we could adopt that church?” she proposed.  Everyone thought it would be a wonderful thing to do — but the parish’s budget was already tight, numbers were down, and what did any of them know about Haiti?  But three members of the council offered to work with her to see what they could do.  And before long, the little Haitian mission became their sister parish, bringing a new sense of meaning and fulfillment to both communities.  Why did you doubt? 

He arrives at the hospital, having driven three hours from school.  He takes the elevator to her floor and arrives at her room.  He stops just short of the doorway.  He can’t bring himself to go in.  What if he says something dumb — or he freezes up altogether and says nothing?  What if she’s tired, what if she’s in pain, what if she doesn’t recognize him?  What if he can’t hold it together?  He paces for several minutes trying to work up the courage to go into her room.  A nurse walks by.  “Are you Clara’s grandson?  She’s going to be delighted to see you!”  And before he realizes it he is swept into her room by the nurse.  His grandmother appears to be asleep.  “Grandma?” he whispers.  She turns her head and, seeing him, her face lights up.  And they talk and laugh for the next hour.  Why did you doubt?

School starts in a few weeks — and she’s not ready for this.  No, she’s not a student.  She’s a teacher.  This is her first year with her own class, something’s she worked hard for six years.  She spends hours and hours making lesson plans, going to workshops, reading and re-reading the year’s material.  She doesn’t sleep the night before.  On the first morning, the bell rings and her third-graders come scurrying into her classroom.  She settles everyone in, then takes a deep breath.  “Good morning, everyone.  I’m Miss Harrington.  Welcome to the third grade!”  And the 20 smiling faces looking up at her assures her that it will be a great year.  And it is.  Why did you doubt?

What happens to the parish council, to the grandson, to the new teacher, what happens to Peter in today’s Gospel, happens to all of us at one time or another:  We panic.  We don’t trust ourselves to know what the right thing is or our ability to do it.  But, somehow, God reaches out and catches us — if we’re willing to put aside our fears and try to do as Jesus would do, trusting in God’s grace to realize that good.  Today’s Gospel challenges us to trust our understanding of discipleship and our ability to live our baptisms.  Christ, in turn, promises to make his presence known to us, to hold us up and support us as we make our way through life’s most turbulent waters and “walk on water” for the good of the kingdom of God.  


20th Sunday of the Year [A] / 11th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 15A]

A Canaanite woman came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
Matthew 15: 21-28

“We are never among strangers . . . ”

Many years ago, in a Thailand village, a Buddhist woman named Malai became a Christian at the request of her husband.  The village’s strict and overly scrupulous priest at the time, a missionary, told Malai that she must never again go inside a Buddhist temple because that would give people the impression that she was not a sincere Christian. 

Her elderly mother continued to practice Buddhism.  Malai would take her mother to the temple gate, but faithful to the injunction of her pastor, she had to ask strangers to take her mother inside the temple itself and help her light the incense sticks and worship.  In Thai society, to take care of one’s elders was a sacred responsibility.  It broke Malai’s heart that she had to rely on the kindness of strangers to assist her mother and could not help her herself.  But she obeyed her pastor.

One day while waiting for her mother to return from going inside the temple on the arm of a stranger, Malai began to cry.  A Buddhist nun who was sweeping the forecourt of the temple saw her.  The nun stopped her sweeping and gently took Malai’s arm.  The nun asked what was wrong.  Malai explained that as a Christian she could not go inside the temple to assist her elderly mother as she prayed.  The nun stared for some time at the ground and then responded:

“Those who recognize the Holy and are moved to worship it, are never among strangers, no matter what their religion happens to be.  And those who are moved by the Holy to be compassionate are already one family.  Do not let your heart be so troubled . . . Mercy has given you the opportunity to allow someone else to perform an act of compassion towards your mother.  Is that not beautiful?”

[As told by John Beeching, M.M., in Maryknoll, November-December 2016.]

Malai’s encounter with the Buddhist nun mirrors the Canaanite woman’s exchange with Jesus.  In our common search for God in our lives, the labels and stereotypes that separate different classes and religions collapse; the search for meaning and purpose — what the Buddhist nun calls “the Holy” — transforms “strangers” into a community and “family” dedicated to the good of all.  Just as the wisdom of the Buddhist nun transforms Malai’s perspective of those who help her mother, Jesus’ compassion for the Canaanite woman and his healing of her daughter breaks down the wall between Gentile and Jew.  The call to discipleship demands that we look beyond labels and stereotypes to realize that every one of us is a child of God, brothers and sisters all.  


21st Sunday of the Year [A] / 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 [A] / 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.”
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 16: 21-27

Expanding the cast of your life’s “play”

In his book Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned about Life, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner tells of a meeting with a member of his congregation. 

“Rabbi, tell me why I should go on living.”

Rabbi Kushner did not know the woman well — she and her husband were occasional worshippers at the synagogue.  There were no medical issues or financial problems; her two sons were grown, but neither had a serious girlfriend, so no weddings were in the offing; she had had a job until a couple of years before but had been laid off. 

“It’s just that I feel that most of the nice things that will ever happen to me have already happened and that I have nothing to look forward to.”

The rabbi struggled with how to respond.  Clearly, she was bored — but he couldn’t tell her that.  He had counselled the chronically ill, the seriously injured, and the dying with reasons to wake up every morning and look forward to the new day.  But he had never counseled someone who didn’t want to go on living because she found life boring.

Rabbi Kushner writes:

“I pointed out that if her life was lacking in drama, it might be because she was operating with a limited cast of characters: herself, a husband, and two children.  She had spoken about her husband and two sons, but were there no other family members, no friends, no organizations she belonged to . . . ? 

“‘The other thing that concerned me about what you said to me,’ I told her, ‘was it was all about what other people were or not doing for you, and that is something you don’t have a lot of control over.  I didn’t hear anything about what you were doing with or for others, yet that might be the exact thing to start changing, the easiest way to feel better about your life.

“‘I’ve been a rabbi a long time,’ I told her.  ‘I’ve dealt with a lot of people who were hurting — women whose husbands had died or had left their marriage, people grieving the death of a child or the loss of a job, people whose deteriorating health left them unable to do the things they once enjoyed.  In every case, I gave them one rule and it almost always worked: the best way to feel better about yourself is to find someone to help . . .

“‘You came here,’ I told the woman in my office, ‘asking why you should go on living.  I can’t give you a compelling answer.  I can only give you advice born of my own experience, which has probably been very different than yours.  But I can tell you this with one hundred percent confidence:  Stick with life, let more people into your life, learn to care for them.  Leave them grateful for having known you . . . ”

Rabbi Kushner doesn’t know how the story ended.  He stepped down from his position as rabbi not long after that.  He never heard from her or about her since, “but at least I didn’t see the woman’s name on an obituary page.”

“If I were presented with the same challenge again, I would give the same answer.  The best cure for feeling down on your own life is to reach out to help someone else.  I’ve never known it to fail.  And the best prescription for adding joy to your own life is to share your life with others.  You will increase the happiness of your own life by sharing their happy times in addition to your own.”

Christ urges us to “lose” that part of our life that is centered in ephemeral, perishable things so that we may “gain” lives grounded in the love of God: to lose our anger, our disappointment, our need for control in order to find meaning and purpose in doing for others and contributing to the common good.  In “dying” to ourselves we become something greater; in letting go of the temporary and the fleeting we become richer; in the suffering we endure we become stronger, in the failures we experience we become wiser.  Grace is to discover the fullness of what our lives can be in “losing” our self-centeredness and discovering our lives’ joy in seeking happiness and blessedness for those we love.  


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

An “exceptional” church

She lived in the group home next to the church.  She was painfully overweight; her clothing didn’t fit.  She hadn’t bathed and wasn’t able to breathe or move comfortably.  Her medication made it difficult for her to follow the prayers and hymns.  She fell asleep during sermons; her snoring, escalated by her breathing problems, echoed through the church.  Once or twice she even forgot where she was and lit up a cigarette right there in the pew.  She wouldn’t speak or make eye contact with anyone.

Parishioners began to complain: She doesn’t belong here.  She couldn’t be getting anything out of it so heavily medicated.  She shouldn’t be allowed to ruin it for everyone.   The poor woman was the subject of more than one parish council meeting:  Her presence was a serious distraction; she was a deterrent to visitors.  And someone noted that she ate too many cookies at coffee hour.

Finally, one council member had had enough of the complaining and lack of compassion.  She was determined to make a friend out of their troubled visitor.  The parishioner left her usual pew and began to sit next to her.  When the snoring started, the parishioner gave her a gentle nudge; she helped her find her place in the hymnal; she quietly reminded her to put the cigarettes away and leave enough cookies and sweets for others during the coffee hour after church.

The parishioner’s unheralded kindness was all the visitor needed.  She began talking to people.  She made eye contact and made a point of shaking hands with the pastor:  “Bless you,” she would say.

A few months later, the pastor received a phone call from the woman’s social worker.  The social worker explained that the woman had never been accepted by any group or able to sustain a single positive relationship until she started coming to church.  She was now making friends in her group home and had begun to bring them to her church.

“Thank you for welcoming her,” the social worker said to the pastor.  “I’ve never been to your church, but I know that it is an exceptional place.”

After hanging up the phone, the pastor sat for a moment, pondering that word:  Exceptional.

[From an essay by Erica Wimber Avena in The Christian Century, January 4, 2017.]

In this difficult situation, one parishioner manages to embrace the spirit of Jesus’ instructions in today’s Gospel: that to follow Jesus means to take on the hard work of building community by welcoming the stranger, the disrupter, the estranged.  In today’s Gospel (which sounds more like a set of regulations devised by a church rules committee than a teaching of Jesus), Jesus calls us to take on his 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 21A]

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.