You catch more flies with an ounce of honey…than with a barrel of vinegar
Stephen. Age 8, writes to his Pastor: Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there.
As older people, we often enjoy a good laugh at the honest words used by children. The problem in the world is that there are too many adults who think/ act like children! And Jesus said: don’t judge! Sorry, let me unpack that generalisation here.
Children are programmed to be more interested in themselves because they need to, to grow. The teenage years is that period of transformation: from thinking too much about ourselves to thinking more about others. And it’s not an easy transition!
Perhaps, that’s why God fills up our bodies with testosterone at that age: it’s not only about pro-creation; it literally pushes us out of home! (at least mentally).
The role of Religion is not to get people into Heaven after death, but to assist each of us to be transformed from self-centred children to community-centred adults. It’s not a one off event.
It’s a slow-moving transformation that, first of all, helps us know who we are. St Eugene de Mazenod famously said: know who you are in the eyes of God!
When we have a self-centred attitude to life, it leads to a lot of sadness and pain, and we find it difficult, if not impossible, to forgive others, and build life-giving relationships.
From the Bible we learn that, in the early lives of the Apostles, they were in love with power and glory: wanting seats at the side of Jesus in Heaven; wanting to rain down fire on the village that rejected Jesus; asking, what will we receive? for our sacrifice of home and family.
So, we can better understand why we meet them today, huddled behind locked doors because they were afraid. The Person who was to give them many things was gone!
Were you ever naughty as a child, and had the experience of living in fear of what punishment mum or dad would give you when they came home and discovered what you had done?
Try to think of an occasion when something bad happened but it wasn’t really your fault. I hope you had surprising times when mum or dad just gave you a hug and said: “it’s OK.”
That’s something like what happens for the Apostles. Let’s track what happened: After running away from Jesus at His arrest, they were afraid of the authorities and God. Jesus enters through their defences (symbolised by the doors), with no words of condemnation. The first words uttered were, “Peace be with you!” =a hug =it’s OK. I love you =I forgive you.
It is then that they are ready to receive the Holy Spirit – when they feel loved and free. And it seems that the main role of the Holy Spirit, and the life of Jesus, was to communicate to all of us the unconditional love and forgiveness of God for each one of us: personally!
“Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven…”, etc. They then went out and all the strangers understood them in their own “language.”
Today, it’s not a question of learning a language to push God down other people’s throats (although St Eugene insisted we missionaries learn the local language), what everyone understands all over the world – what we want most of all – is the gift of forgiveness.
Just quickly, let me share from Bl. Joseph Gerard OMI (29 May), how we unlock God’s love in our lives because, unless we feel loved, it’s very difficult to forgive others:
“There is a secret to be loved, it is to love. Also, for the Basotho, the Matebele, even the unbelievers, in seeing them we can ask ourselves what to do to convert them? The answer is on every page of the Gospel: we must love them, love them in spite of everything… the world belongs to the person who loves it most and proves it” [by our actions]. He also said: You catch more flies with an ounce of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.
Give thanks today for the expression of God’s love and companionship with each of us. I pray we never lose the power of our imagination to rise above the painful situations we often find ourselves in, so see and feel God’s love for us.
By loving others, we grow to feel loved. Only when we feel loved, do we allow God’s love to be channelled through us to heal other people. It is that healing that we allow God to do through us that builds a peace-ful community in which we can all live with joy.
Be courageous and love others at least as much as you love yourself. The world will become a better place, and you will discover joy more often.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI