Here’s a bright idea to change the world

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Remember those good old days when you would rarely turn on your TV in the summertime since the only shows on were reruns? Well, I’m going back to that tradition with this column and rerun some things that I’ve shared before.

It’s not because I’m too lazy to think of something new. Rather, given the prevailing climate of the world today, perhaps we need to be reminded of some basic attitudes, especially as Christians, that can enhance our living together. I hope you won’t tune me out, but will keep reading.

It’s hard not to be distressed at the rancor found in our political exchanges and on social media. It’s almost like we’re living out “The Jerry Springer Show.” And that disrespect seeps out into the real world, resulting in violence, self-centeredness, abuse and callousness.

As Christians, Jesus called us to move from a preoccupation with ourselves toward care about those around us, particularly the marginalized. In other words, we’re called to show the world a better way to live, to restore a sense of hope. A few weeks ago, our second reading at Mass said: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pt 3:15b-16a).

Jesus himself encouraged us to be salt and light, a city set on a mountaintop. But more than simply encourage, Jesus showed us how it’s actually done by the life he led. In our own day, Pope Francis calls us to — and embodies — this “culture of encounter.” The following story shows how to best encounter the world:

The wind and the sun once had a quarrel about who was stronger.

The wind said, “I’ll show you that I’m stronger. See that old man over there with the big coat on? Bet I can make him take off his coat much quicker than you.” “We’ll see,” said the sun.

The sun went behind a cloud, but left a little hole to peep through. The wind blew and blew as hard as he could, causing a terrible storm. The harder he blew, the tighter the old man wrapped the coat around himself. In the end, the wind had to become calm and give up.

Then it was the sun’s turn. He came out from behind the cloud and smiled brightly on the old man. After a bit, the old guy began to mop his brow, then he pulled off his coat. And so, the sun beat the wind, showing who was the stronger. (Adapted from “Gentleness,” found in “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers,” by Paul J. Wharton.)

The warmth of kindness will always be more powerful than the blowhards in our world, who berate and belittle and bully. But living as a light can be challenging. Some of the best practical and encouraging advice is found on something that Mother Teresa posted on a wall in a children’s home run by her Sisters. It’s called the “Paradoxical Commandments.”

Although often attributed to Mother Teresa, she did not write them; she only posted them. These “commandments” below were actually written by Kent M. Keith:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

By the way, if you have any doubts about the tremendous strength of the sun, just step outside these next few days!

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