Posted by: mmreflections | June 10, 2011

Employment Opportunities! June 2011

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.  He walked along and saw two other brothers, James and John, in a boat with their father, mending nets.  He called them and they immediately left their boat and their father and followed Jesus.  (Cfr. Matthew 4:18-22)

It happened one evening at the close of a major parish celebration.  A group of us were sitting around enjoying some quiet moments after all the guests had departed and the clean-up was completed.  Within the group was an executive officer from General Motors, a very attractive, well-dressed, elegant lady who could have been a model for a designer clothing line, other notable professionals serving in different fields, along with some of the other hard working volunteers from the parish. Everyone present was active in the parish and deeply committed to a Christian life-style.  Most of them could have boasted about their notable accomplishments.  Some questions arose regarding the successes achieved by those in this little group of volunteers and why they were so committed to our parish community.  From where did their strong faith in God arise?  To my surprise the conversations moved from current achievements to beginnings.  How had they come so far on their life’s journeys?  How did it all begin?

The officer from GM opened up telling a story about growing up in a poor Michigan family during the roughest times of the great depression:

“I was asked by my teacher to be in the annual Christmas pageant that our school put on each year for the parents and local community.  I was really excited about playing a part in this important event. The time had come and we were having our last rehearsal before the big night.  I quietly stood on the stage in my big boots and tattered trousers as we received our final instructions.  The teacher reminded us to wear our nicest Sunday clothes for the pageant.  I sadly and quietly whispered to the teacher that these were my very best clothes.  She put her arms around me, calling me by name, reassuring me that it would be just fine for me to appear with the clothes I wore.  The big night arrived and I walked onto the stage in my big boots and tattered trousers.  No one laughed at me!  No one criticized!  I learned a great lesson about self-confidence from that good teacher and from that moment I walked on the stage.  I think it propelled me into being the best person I could be with God’s help. I had a desire to do for others what this teacher did for me.  My faith has been strengthened by the what God has done for me.”

When he had finished speaking, there was a respectful silence broken by the perfectly dressed lovely lady in the circle.  She smiled as she related the foundations for her professional success:

“The depression years were really tough on our family.  We had so little.  I, too,  had to go to school in shabby clothes, mostly hand-me downs.  My undergarments were made from flour sacks.  If I were to bend down and the back of my drawers were visible, spectators would have seen the brand of flour my mom used:  “King Midas Flour”.  Strangely enough, these humble beginnings only motivated me to be the best I could be with what I had.  My brothers and sisters were constantly reminded that good things were coming our way as long as we held on to our faith in God and in what Jesus could do for us if we were faithful.  I am where I am because of my faith in God and because of the strength I received from those who loved me.  I decided I wanted to help others to be the best they could be with what they had.”

It turned out to be a long evening as we sat around and shared our humble beginnings.  The stories shared that night without shame or hesitation were an inspiration for all of us and it strengthened our relationship with each other as we worked together building a parish community.  There were stories about mistakes, failures heart-break, hunger, abuse, humiliations and other wounds that developed character.  A recurring theme seemed to be a sense of being called by the Lord to follow his way and let him draw good out of all that had happened so far on our journeys.  It appeared that all of us found ourselves eager to do some good for others in spite of our personal challenges, weaknesses and humble beginnings.

I found myself describing those same years when as a little boy I would go out to the dump and pick the little shiny black coals from the ashes.  My little job was to fill the bucket beside the kitchen coal stove.  My older brothers would take a wagon and walk along the railroad tracks filling up potato sacks with the coal that had fallen from the trains carrying the coal.  They would fill the coal bin in the basement to provide for the winter months.  I recalled my own shabby clothes, the holes in my shoes covered over by pieces of cardboard.  In the midst of it all, during those late depression years, there was in my family an abiding faith in God who would someday make all things right. 

The refrains from the Psalmist come to mind:

 “The needy will never be forgotten nor will the hope of the afflicted ever fade.”  (Psalm 9:19)

 “You listen, Lord, to the needs of the poor; you encourage them and hear their prayers.  You win justice for the orphaned and oppressed…”  (Psalm 10:17-18) 

“You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.  With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.  O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”  (Psalm 30:12-13)
“I waited, waited for the Lord who bent down and heard my cry.  He drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp, set my feet upon rock, steadied my steps, and put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God.  Many shall look on in awe and they shall trust in the Lord.  Happy those whose trust is the Lord.”  (Psalm 40: 2-5)

We might discover the golden nuggets in these stories if we go back to that moment when Jesus called his first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James and John.  This was not the first time he saw these men or talked to them.  No doubt they had already listened to him, but in this moment they were challenged to join Jesus in his mission to make the world a better place.  We should note what kind of men they were.  They were not great scholars or philosophers, not great religious leaders, not men of influence or wealth or high social standing.  They were simple working men with no great background who most people would have concluded had no great future.  These were ordinary men whom Jesus called to follow him.  What is needed today are men and women who are willing to allow God to use them in accomplishing his purpose.

We are experiencing tough times in our society at this moment in history.  Uncertainty has touched the lives of most of us.  Our leaders, in many instances, have been a great disappointment.  It is quite difficult to avoid being bombarded by fears if we watch the news or are in any quality conversations with friends.  In these challenging times we need to remember we are all called by God to do our part in building a better society.  It is the Lord who will accomplish through us what needs to be done if we are willing to commit our lives to the Lord’s work even as those first fishermen did.  We are called just as we are with all our faults and failings.  There is something each one of us can accomplish if we are willing to be instruments of God’s love.  Tough times can truly be a blessing in helping us to become the men and women we were created to be.  Are we willing to truly commit our lives to the Lord and to do whatever we can to make our world a little better, a little happier, a little more secure?  Job openings are readily available to all ages, with all experiences, all backgrounds, all mistakes and failure.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine,   so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

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Responses

  1. Dear Fr. Mike,
    How you can touch our very souls. All I ask is to be able to help others because of my humble past. A humble past is the best way to show us the way we must go. God will never give us more than we can handle. My mother used to say that over and over again.
    God Bless you for being such an inspiration to us.
    Kitty

  2. Father Mike, Your messages are always fresh and new and interesting; no matter that we have heard them down thru the years. We are continually refreshed and renewed with your words. Thank you. Charlie K.


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