|pirituality Corner (Part 1)|
Hateful Comparisons And Precious Gifts
–by Father Phil Bloom
Cervantes said, “All comparisons are odious.”* They breed hate. One of the cruelest (and stupidest) things a husband can do is compare his wife to another woman, especially his mom. All of us have felt the sting of being compared unfavorably to some other person. How can we avoid the trap? Pentecost Sunday shows the way.
St. Paul states, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit.” (I Cor 12:4) We tend to focus on our gifts, becoming puffed up if they are greater than someone else – or feeling dejected if they are inferior. St. Paul urges us to recognize the Giver.
The Giver is superior to any gift. I had to go thru a painful experience to learn that lesson. I was once assigned with a priest near my age. Parishioners naturally compared us: who gave the better homilies, which one related better with youth, who was the better leader. In those areas – and others – I came off number two. I did try harder, but agonized when people praised him in front of me.
It took a moment of grace for me to see the root of my anguish. I was praying about a homily. I asked the Lord that it go well. I heard Him say, “Why are you so anxious it be well received?”
Piously I responded, “For your kingdom, Lord. To save souls.”
Then I heard the the obvious question, “If that is so, why do you not pray his homilies go well?” I had to smile. It was the Holy Spirit speaking.
What counts is not the greatness of the gifts we have received, but the Giver. He can make them work together for the good of the Body. To a certain degree he can even use our competitiveness to bring about his overall purpose. Plain gifts yield enormous results if we acknowledge the Source. Let me illustrate with a story:
Once there was a young woman in her early twenties. She was devoted to God, attending not only Sunday Mass, but often during the week. She would stay after to pray, gravitating toward the statue of St. Anthony. Curious, the priest asked her what she was doing.
She said she hoped one day to get married, to become a mother. She understood St. Anthony was the one to pray to so that God would send her the right husband. The priest said, “That is true. But can you tell me the qualities of your ideal husband?”
She said, “Father, I don’t care if he is handsome or ugly, rich or poor, tall or short, skinny or fat. I want a man who will love God more than he loves me.” A few months later the priest noticed a young man at her side. True enough, he was not the most handsome boy in the neighborhood. In fact, he was quite average in appearance. But in one way he was way above average. He wanted to do God’s will, to put Jesus first in his life. Together they formed a beautiful marriage, because they recognized what comes first are not all the things one has, but their Source.
Our gifts are precious not in themselves, but because of the Giver. This Sunday we acknowledge the Source of all blessings – the Advocate whom the Father sends in Jesus’ name. (Jn. 14:25)
Fr. Phil Bloom
* (Quixote, Pt. 2, ch. 23) The saying can be traced to John Fortescue, circa 1395-1485. Shakespeare says something similar, “Comparisons are odorous.” Much Ado about Nothing, act iii. sc. 5:
VERGES Yes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living that is an old man and no honester than I.
DOGBERRY Comparisons are odorous: palabras, neighbour Verges.
©Copyright2001 Father Phil Bloom http://geocities.com/seapadre_1999/ All rights reserved. Used with kind permission.
Image used with kind permission from http://www.hermanoleon.org
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