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Soul Surfing from HCFM

Discussion in 'Catholic DIR' started by Scott1, Jan 27, 2005.

  1. Scott1

    Scott1 Well-Known Member

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    “Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

    “SOUL-SURFING” – January 30, 2005
    Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 5:1-12
    Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

    The hospital hallways glittered in seasonal decoration last month, activity almost frenzied on December 23rd as scores of patients were discharged to spend Christmas at home. Mid-morning that day I stood waiting for an elevator on the 5th floor when a young wheelchair-bound man and his family joined me at the elevator. Waiting for our transport, pleasant chit-chat volleyed between us as I learned that successful knee surgery days previous now allowed Dad to escape to home with his wife and two small children, all three standing with him and a hospital aide at the bank of elevators. One could quickly see that Dad’s chief glee was in exiting the institutional sickbed, while his kids’ excitement had far more to do with the imminent arrival of Santa Claus than with Dad’s successful surgery. Mom’s face appeared resigned to an approaching week of chaos. Still waiting for the elevator, I heard jingle bells coming our way from around a corner. As the bells got progressively louder, I leaned down to the excited kids to propose something wondrous. “Gee, that may be Santa Claus coming our way. I saw him visiting people on another floor earlier this morning.” Mom and Dad grinned widely as the kids’ faces at first paled, terror their first response to Santa’s encountering them. But then, once the initial shock subsided, glee overtook them as they reddened in the face and tugged at Mom’s and Dad’s sleeves asking what they should say to Santa when he addressed them. The jingle bells now nearer and louder, just around the corner, I guessed, an elevator arrived, but our small group let it pass, the kids too keyed up to forego such an opportunity. “He’s almost here, just around the corner,” I advised the little ones. “When he says ‘Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas,’ you guys yell out ‘Merry Christmas, Santa.’” Mom and Dad seemed pleased with the playful repartee unfolding before them; I trusted that Santa would be likewise pleasantly engaging. What next transpired, though shocking at first, was more wondrous than what any red-attired, white-bearded, rotund man could have provided!

    The jingling figure turned the corner to face us; however, he wore not red but yellow, “Albany County Department of Corrections” stenciled on the back of his jumpsuit, his jangling leg shackles and handcuffs so mocking jingle bells as to fool Santa himself. The prisoner stood almost seven feet tall, it seemed, dwarfing the two armed corrections officers accompanying him. Worse, the faux Santa had heard even from around the corner my interchange with the two children as I prepped them for St. Nick’s arrival. First addressing my wide-eyed embarrassment, he leaned into me and hissed, “I ain’t Santa.” Then, turning toward the open-mouthed family, he softened to an amazing degree, huge smile revealing missing teeth as he spoke directly to the kids, “You little guys have a Merry Christmas. And pay attention to your Mommy and Daddy, okay?” An elevator door suddenly opening before the prisoner and his armed elves, they disappeared into it as the rest of us continued to stand stunned in the alcove. Ending a longish silence, during which I struggled vainly to conjure some word of comfort to soothe the keenly disappointed children, the older of the two boys (about five years old, I’d guess) spoke up. “Wow, Mom, Dad did you see him! Wow, and the two guards had guns! Wow! And he talked to us! He said ‘Merry Christmas.’ I can’t wait to tell Aunt Sally and Uncle Ted when we get home! Wow!”

    In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus addresses his disciples, proposing, among a litany of seemingly contradictory statements, one which is especially apropos to our December 23rd experience at the hospital elevator. “Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Indeed, when the hulking, jingling figure turned the corner to face us, Mom, Dad, the hospital aide and I saw only a manacled, cuffed, incarcerated prisoner accompanied by armed guards. The kids, though, viewed the huge man through eyes untainted by whatever it is that turns one’s vision cynical and untrusting. While the prisoner proclaimed a truth to me (“I ain’t Santa) , the young ones experienced a far different truth, their pure hearts able to see beyond shackle, handcuff and armed escort to a huge friendliness (“You little guys have a Merry Christmas). It seemed a small leap, indeed, for the two youthful bystanders to translate their excitement at Santa’s impending arrival to the county prisoner who stood in Santa’s stead. As a matter of fact, Santa had seemed everywhere present those pre-Christmas weeks, but a shackled, guarded prisoner. Wow! What a treat!

    In The Little Prince, twentieth-century French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery echoes the vision of which Jesus speaks in today’s gospel passage. Saint-Exupery writes, “It is only with the heart that we can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Knowing his disciples to be in danger of judging by standards far from heaven’s design, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Surely, we too stand in great need of that same blessing, the ability to see beneath the surface to the core, the ability to see people for who they are rather than for what they do, what they wear, what they possess. Two little kids anxious for the arrival of Santa taught four adults something of purity of heart on December 23rd when, while we older folk saw a menacing criminal, the little ones saw a friendly giant of a man, yellow-suited, bound hand and foot, whose greeting made far more an impression than anything weary old St. Nick may have said. Santa would probably have tossed out one more “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas” to the young boys. But the hulking prisoner stooped down from a height to wish them a happy holiday, also reminding them to pay close attention to their parents. Wow! Probably every other kid on their block got to talk to Santa, but I bet nobody else they knew got to talk to a real convict, not at Christmas or anytime. Wow!

    As we gather our family in prayer this day in the conviction that the family that prays together stays together, may God so purify our hearts that we might experience abundant blessings in surprising places and unusual encounters.

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