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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sparkles of Light (Mt 23:1-12)


6 March 2012, Tuesday of 2nd Week of Lent
 PREACH WHAT YOU PRACTICE

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.' As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Matthew 23:1-12

In the Gospel for today, Jesus was preaching to his disciples about being true to what you preach.  You can’t preach something that you yourself do not practice.  Let me tell you two stories.  The first story is about a boy I have heard from a parent in our Jesuit parish in Iloilo.  The other story is about someone whom I consider as a true saint.
First story.  There was a little boy who attended a mass with his grandfather. The church they were going to had beautiful stained-glass windows. The grandpa told his grandson that the windows contained pictures of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and many other saints.  When he got home, the boy told this to his mom and dad.  The father, wanting to be funny and curious about what his son had learned, asked, "What is a saint?" The boy thought for a minute and then replied, "A saint is somebody the light shines through." When I heard about that story, I realized that it was a pretty good definition of a Saint. Who are your saints? Who are the people in your life who let the light of God shine through them for you to see?

This brings me to my second story.  There was a quiet and pious church worker, again in one of our Jesuit parish in Iloilo that I always admire.  Her name is Grace.  Grace was very active in many of the parish activities but I think her greatest act of stewardship, service and sacrifice were her birthday and anniversary cards. This was Grace's love and passion. Usually we printed a list of the birthdays and anniversaries of our parish workers in our newsletter. Grace would send everyone a birthday or anniversary card. We usually tried to help her by giving her boxes of generic cards that were donated but Grace wouldn't take them. Grace delighted in going to the card shop and selecting cards just for each person. She prayed for them while she was selecting them and while she was filling them out.

Because of this, Grace had a huge impact on the life of our parish. When Grace died, they found her, lying in bed. Her Bible was open and laying on the bed next to her. And her hands were folded in prayer.  When her children came, they found three months’ worth of birthday cards. The cards were already addressed, signed and dated. You see, Grace would pencil in the date that the card needed to be mailed under where the stamp would go, so that everyone would get their card on or before their birthday.  She was doing a very simple task, yet Grace did it faithfully and lovingly.  Grace is indeed a saint in my book.

 So what made Grace so special? Grace did what the Pharisees in this passage didn't do. Although she was one, Grace never thought of herself as a Saint. She only thought of herself as a steward and a servant. Grace let the light of God shine through her. And when she did, lives were influenced and changed.  This Lenten season, may we be a light to others by practicing what we preach.  Always practice what you preach and truly the light of Christ shines brightly to others.

            

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