“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12.51-53)
Sexual education in school is always a hot subject. Recently Robert Layton attended a meeting for parents during which they were to preview the new course in sexuality. Parents could examine the curriculum and take part in an actual lesson presented exactly as it would be given to the students.
As he waited for the presentation, he thumbed through page after page of instructions in the prevention of pregnancy or disease and he was very surprised to notice that abstinence was mentioned only in passing. Hence when the teacher solicited questions from the parents, he asked why abstinence did not play a noticeable part in the material. “What happened next was shocking. There was a great deal of laughter, and someone suggested that if I thought abstinence had any merit, I should go back to burying my head in the sand.”
Extremely embarrassed, Robert felt he should not take part in the break with the other parents and teacher. During this break the parents were asked to put on the name tags which had been previously prepared and mingle with the other parents. When the class was called back to order, the teacher told the parents that now they were going to give the same lesson they will be giving the children.
And here is how the story continues in Robert Layton own words. “Everyone please peel off your name tags,” the teacher said. I watched in silence as the tags came off. “Now, then, on the back of one of the tags, I drew a tiny flower. Who has it, please?” The gentleman across from me held it up. “Here it is!” “All right,” she said. “The flower represents disease. Do you recall with whom you shook hands?” He pointed to a couple of people. “Very good,” she replied. “The handshake in this case represents intimacy. So the two people you had contact with now have the disease.” There was laughter and joking among the parents. The teacher continued, “And whom did the two of you shake hands with?” The point was well taken, and she explained how this lesson would show students how quickly disease is spread. “Since we all shook hands, we all have the disease.” It was then that I heard the still, small voice again. “Speak now, it said, “but be humble.” I noted wryly the latter admonition, then rose from my chair. I apologized for any upset I might have caused earlier, congratulated the teacher on an excellent lesson that would impress the youth, and concluded by saying I had only one small point I wished to make. “Not all of us were infected,” I said. “One of us … abstained.”
This story triggered my interest for various reasons, but what did mainly strike me was the reaction of the people when this man suggested abstinence as an obvious way to prevent disease and pregnancy among teenagers : “There was a great deal of laughter, and someone suggested that if I thought abstinence had any merit, I should go back to burying my head in the sand.”
Someone once remarked that if Jesus Christ were to come today, the people would not crucify him. They are much more proper. They would invite him for a coffee and some donuts, listen to him and then politely show him the door. The values of the Gospel seem so ridiculous in our society. What is unfortunate is that this worldliness has penetrated also within the Church.
Just three examples. During a recent Gallup poll in the States, it was asked whether Catholic parents can still be called Catholic if they regularly use contraception. A high 82% answered yes! Thought provoking, no?
When a battered wife decided to remain with her abusive husband because she said : “I gave him a promise before God to stand by him and love him for better or for worse”, many parishioners considered her decision as irresponsible, immature and some even thought it was naive! This kind of reactions from the parishioners makes you wonder, no?!
Yesterday, a young man of 23 made his solemn profession in our Church, thus becoming a full fledged Carmelite. In three years time, God willing, he will be a priest. When I suggest or simply hint to teenagers and young adults the possibility of considering seriously the option of becoming a priest or a sister, the girls normally start giggling, the boys shrug their shoulders. Why?
It s not a question of being judgmental, but really these facts should make us think about our Christianity. Perhaps Christianity has been watered down really big. This is why perhaps there is no division in families!
However what irritated the early pagans, when the Church was still fresh and young, was not so much the ethical behavior of the Christians even if this was very different. One of the Early Fathers remarked : “While we Christians share everything except our wives, the pagans share nothing except their wives..” Wife swapping is not a modern sin!
What irritated the pagans was the JOY of the Christians. There was a joy, a happiness in the early Christians which got on the nerves of the people. The Christians were pushed aside and they did not retaliate. They were treated unjustly and they did not react negatively. They were sent to the arena in the hope of seeing them running for their lives, scared stiff in front of the panthers and they were visibly annoyed to see them holding their ground, singing hymns of joy! They had something, a secret which the pagans with all their knowledge, riches, religion, did not have.
Inner endless strength
What was their secret? What is the key to joy in affliction? These Christians had a fire within them, a consuming fire. They had life within them. Eternal life. A strength which overcame external circumstances. A spring of water which constantly oozed out fresh water – and so they did not mind if they lost water because they were being constantly replenished. Just to take an example. Imagine that you had half a million dollars coming in every day; yes, every day, seven days a week, a check arrives with half a million dollars written on it. And you have been given a guarantee that this half-a-million dollars will be coming to you every single day until you die. Just imagine! I don’t know about you, but if I was the recipient of all this money, I wouldn’t mind eating out every day, I wouldn’t mind going on a cruise every other week, I wouldn’t mind changing my car every month, I wouldn’t mind giving out all my the money which I do not spend to the poor; I would not even mind if someone stole my VCR or my TV – I can always replace them with something bigger and newer…
This is what Christianity is. Having all this money of love inside you which never dies out. Having this inner strength inside you which never abates. Having a fire which will never extinguish within you. “I have come to bring fire on earth and how I wish it were already kindled!”
The question is why is it that we do not have it?! If the early Christians had it, what about us? I don’t know but maybe one of the reasons is that we have mixed up our priorities.
Rocks, gravel, sand, water
This came to me through email : “A while back I was reading about an expert on subject of time management. One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.
As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full? Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your education, your finances? A cause?
Or is it …your faith, your relationship with Jesus Christ?!
What a question!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.