My pastor told an interesting story today at mass. The gist of it went something like this:
Near a village lived an old man who was very wise and could answer hard questions. Many people came to him, seeking his knowledge. One of the boys in the village decided to trick the old man in order to ruin his reputation. He decided to catch a bird and then ask the man what was in his hands. If he guessed rightly, he had a second question ready. Was the bird dead or alive? If he guessed alive, he would crush the bird, killing it. If he guessed dead, he would let the bird fly free, exposing the ineptness of the sage either way.
When the man arrived in the village one day, the boy hurried to catch a bird and presented himself to him, asking what was in his hands. After a brief pause, the elder responded he had a bird. When the boy asked the second question about whether it was dead or alive, the man looked deep into the boy’s eyes silently for awhile before finally saying: “It is as you choose it.”
The art of storytelling is ancient. In my country, celebrating 150 years today, oral tradition dates back even further for our Indigenous people. Jesus too was a storyteller. Using stories to make a point often helps us to remember a lesson. The reading today was for some odd reason not the one in the missal. We heard about Jesus curing the 10 lepers and having only one return to give thanks. This too is a story of you choose it. We have daily choices and we do not always chose wisely.
In the story, the youngster is trying to dishonour and discredit the sage. In the Gospel reading, only one of the ten returns to honour and credit Jesus with his healing. Two very different choices are made. Why is it we try to destroy other people? How come we do not rejoice in the gift of another? Why do some people act with compassion and mercy while others do not? Each of us is given the opportunity to do the right thing. Sometimes we fail. I am certainly not perfect but in this stage of life that I am entering, I find that I desire to be more compassionate and merciful.
What happens when we are dishonoured and put down? I have been returning to the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises to the states of comparison lately. I realize that some are easier to embrace than others. The sage in the story rose above the deceptive attempt and placed the decision squarely on the boy. If only most of us could reach deep into ourselves, beyond our egos and fears, and act similarly. The majority of the lepers did not return to give Jesus the honour and gratitude he deserved. I wonder if they ever saw him again and felt remorse for their oversight. Perhaps during his public disgracing on the Via Delorosa?
Our daily lives are filled with choices from the moment we open our eyes. Before I get out of bed, I try to do my morning offer–expressing my love for the Creator and my gratitude for the gifts received. This is followed by offering God all my works, prayers, joys and sorrows. This is a leap of faith–to be thankful for whatever will come even before my feet touch the ground. I make a choice that I will love and be grateful. As the Suspice says, You have given all to me, now I return it. I make the choice daily to try to be a gift and receive the great Gift. Some days I fail miserably at honouring those I encounter. Some days I choose unwisely. The Examen clarifies at day’s end how I have done.
I live in a great land, where the ancestors of the people share a scarred history. Much dishonour came to the people who lived here first when the foreigners arrived. That continues to this day. I have halfheartedly celebrated this milestone and avoided some of the bigger venues for various reasons. I will soon step out onto my balcony, having chosen to stay in tonight and watch the fireworks from home. My view will be partially obscured and I am a person who finds the live light show fascinating so I am now second-guessing my decision. I am sure it will be a spectacular 20 minutes and 17 second display. I am learning to live with my choices, even the small ones that do not make a difference in the bigger picture.
God bless this land in which I live and God bless us as we navigate the many choices we make on a daily basis.
When have you had to make a difficult choice?
Have you experienced a time when you felt dishonoured? How did you react?
Sage Creator, you act with compassion and mercy, even when discredited and dishonoured. Teach me how to be more like you so that I will make honourable choices in my daily life. May each day begin and end with praising and thanking you with a heart full of love. Amen.