Truth, stranger than fiction

It’s time for a few true stories.

A few weeks ago in the Mass readings, there was the story of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed, and Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. The reading from the book of Genesis read: “The man said to Lot: ‘Take your wife and flee!’ ” A little boy was listening to the reading. He asked: “I know Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What happened to the flea?”

It’s always interesting what we say, and what children actually hear.

Flee and flea do indeed sound the same. As someone wisely said, “Children are wonderful observers and terrible interpreters.”

A second true story concerns a grandfather taking his grandson, about 2-and-a-half years old, to the zoo. At one point the little boy couldn’t see over a barrier and asked his grandfather if he would pick him up. The grandfather was going through some physical therapy on his back, and explained that his back was sore, and he couldn’t pick him up.

Without saying a word, the little boy took one of the brochures from the zoo, and began to fan his grandfather’s back. He then asked, “Does your back feel better granddad?” The grandfather picked him up.

Most of us admire the miracles that Jesus worked. We have forgotten our own power to work miracles. The little boy worked a miracle of love. Don’t we all have that power?

When people share their pain with me, I simply suggest that they do with love what Jesus did when he cast out demons. I suggest, for example, if a knee is hurting, say to the knee: “Pain, I love you. I give you permission to leave!”

Then send love to that part of your body again and again. You will always notice the pain diminishing.

That’s not the work of the human ego.

The human ego would get stuck in pride about being able to work miracles. This is the work of the Christ within us. Whenever we speak words of love to others or to ourselves, whenever we send loving thoughts to others or to ourselves, that is the voice of Christ within us. Most of us are used to praying to God out there. It’s a miracle of joy to pray from the presence of Christ within.

The final story involves me. I was paying for my gas at a gas station/convenience store, and as I left I noticed a humble African-American lady buying some lottery tickets. I held the door for her for about 10 seconds as I left. She stopped, looked at me, and gave me a big toothless smile.

Then with a voice filled with sincerity, she said, “Oh, thank you sir. I didn’t think I mattered to nobody!”

Winning the lottery would not have brought more joy to my heart than her comments. She didn’t think she mattered. The world just hurried past her. No one saw her.

I responded simply: “You matter.”

Each of you reading this column has worked similar miracles, but may never have known it. Perhaps you let someone into a line of traffic, held a door, smiled at a stranger, greeted someone in a mall, cooked a meal, ran an errand, and so on.

It’s not doing great things that are the miracles of life. It’s doing small things with great love.

To be loving is its own reward, whether anyone thanks us or notices our kindness.

“What you do to the least person, you do to me” are challenging, and inspiring words of Jesus. In truth there are no least ones. There is, as Mother Teresa said, only Christ coming to us in his most distressing disguises.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.