This is a guest post from Father Paul Jarvis, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, who is currently serving as Pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Rosemount, Minnesota.
I don’t know if it’s ever happened to you. It has to me. You’re walking around a cabin’s corner, or down the hallway, or towards a doorway, and you hear your name mentioned. And then there are a few words that make you freeze.
Stopping you from going around the cabin’s corner. Into the vestibule. Through the doorway. Why?
Because your hearing, fine -tuned with the mention of your name, keenly hears the disparaging, unkind words. The put down. The dismissive tone. You freeze, and then quickly turn around. Forever remembering the words and the persons spewing them.
Well, it doesn’t have to be forever, but they certainly will be if the inadvertent listener is in the throes of insecurity.
One of the many things that differentiate us Christians, as a people and as an organization, is that we try to be different from the rest of the world. That is, with the help of Jesus’ teachings and God’s grace. And a little assistance from our guardian angels. We try to intentionally live a heavenly way of life here on earth.
Contrary to folks immersed in the ways of the world, we treat all people with kindness and presume the best in others. Not because God is gonna get us if we don’t. That’s simply more worldly punish-and-reward thinking. No, we treat all people with respect – and use words in only respectful ways – because we actually understand what Jesus taught us, in how we are to live. Each and every moment of the day, with each and every person we meet and know.
Agape / ἀγάπη…put into daily action.
Lest we not know what that entails in our day-to-day lives, Jesus gave us His positive spin on the ancient Golden Rule, which significantly amps up the behavioral rule of his day: the ancient Hebrew understanding was to not do to others what you would you would not have done to you. That’s the negative angle on the Golden Rule. Jesus takes that, and goes further: To actually do for others what you would have them do for you.
Not only is there no room for slander, unkind words and gestures, and gossip in the rule (because we would not want to be on the receiving end of such things)…there’s the direction to actually do something kind and helpful for another. Because you would want that done for yourself.
Sometimes it helps people to think that with each unkind word and gesture we employ, we deliver such unkindness to Christ Himself. If you will, contributing even more lashes to Jesus’ Passion. But given Jesus’ very practical guidance, we could see each kind gesture we do being delivered to Christ. That was Mother Teresa’s method.
If that helps guide your future behavior in everyday situations, then let us all adopt such a guideline. And yet, even more fundamentally, we need to understand why Jesus gave us His positive spin on the ancient Golden Rule: Because all people are equally loved by our Father, all are children of God. We are brothers and sisters to each other. There really is no “them” in God’s realm.
To the extent that we dishonor or are unkind towards another – whether or not we think they are within earshot – is the extent to which we simply don’t get His teachings yet, and are lost in darkness and delusion. The hallmark of a Christian is how we treat others. We in effect apostatize (leave the Faith, leave THE WAY, leave the community of disciples) with words and actions of disrespect and unkindness.
Believe me, no one wants to join a community of darkness and delusion.
And so I have some very good news for the assembly of Jesus’ followers here at St. Joe’s. People are talking. I know, because I heard them…overheard them. Some of the talk I’ve accidentally happened upon:
1) During Leprechaun Days, I heard parade watchers say that they felt very welcomed when they went “to the services at St. Joe’s.” (By their use of the term “service”, I assumed that they were seekers not already of the Catholic Christian faith.)
2) Tailgaters at the Irish Settlers Tailgate Party last Saturday evening came up to me and enthused that they were having a great time. Couldn’t wait to see what happens next year, even volunteering that they would help. And opined that it was “great that we were doing something with other churches in the area.” (Pastor Goodwin brought over quite a few people from Lighthouse Church for the evening’s fireworks watch.)
3) I even overheard a conversation in the Rosemount High School parking lot, just before the Leprechaun Days parade, that they’ve “heard that there’s a real positive, Christian spirit among St. Joe’s members.”
Hearing that made my heart skip. I not only didn’t freeze and turn around when I heard those words. I continued forward and blurted out, “I’ve heard that too.” And I continued on, treasuring those words for the rest of the day or two or three.
Many, many thanks to the incredible number of St. Joe’s parishioners who witnessed to Jesus’ teachings during Leprechaun Days.
From the Knights making thousands of tasty porkchops-on-a-stick, to the Lock's for godparenting the whole Leprechaun Days some years ago, to Bridget Samson and the Parish Life Commission and Leprechaun Days Committee for organizing the Irish Settlers Tailgate Party, to Colin Patience for playing the pipes in the parade, to Mayor Droste and council members for racing in the Commode Championship, to the many St. Joe’s parishioners and school students in our parade float.
People in town are talking about you. Believe me, you do wanna hear what they are saying. It’ll make your heart soar.
Fr. Paul Jarvis