The Young Man at the Tomb Holding Fast to Each Other Amen to What We Are The Lord, Our Justice Claiming Our True Name What We Expect The Comma Keeping the Demons Quiet The Dove in the Heavens Thankfulness and Generosity Speaking to Jesus A Promise to Simeon and Us A Sign for You The Voice in the Wilderness How Annunciations Work The Least, the Lost, and the Last Waiting for Christ’s Return Attire for the Kingdom The Cross in a Violent World Come to the Banquet Today Anointing of the Sick Finding the Eternal Change and Continuity Paying Attention The First and the Last Using Bad Consequences How to Talk to God Ready to Forgive Facing the Serpent Priority and Mutuality Three Meals a Day Searching for Pearls The Power of Service Why Walk on Water? The Day Jesus Was Wrong The Promise of the New Name The Two Feet of Love Facing the Hour Looking Backwards Touching the Leper Touching the Leper Misunderstanding God Doing It Poorly God’s Midwife A Name for the Holy Spirit The Coffin So We Do Not Have to Touch Being Better to Each Other Earthquakes and Galilee Lazarus as a Disciple Seeing More Learning from Peter Imitating God’s Holiness Weekly Bulletin 3/2/14 Imitating God’s Holiness Weekly Bulletin 3/9/14 Choosing a Master Goodness in Temptation A Pinch of Salt Teaching the Commandments The Freedom of the Baptist Christ’s Broken Body Faith Is More than Looking The Twelve Days of Christmas God’s Timing Resurrection and Transformation The Good That Is Gone Zacchaeus Moments God in the Smallest Things Trust and Community When God’s Commands Do Not Fit The Faith of Honeybees Choosing Hell Following the Dishonest Steward The Ninety-Nine The Freedom to Let Go Beyond Politics The Balance of Humility Not Fearing Fire The Beauty Remains To Welcome as a Samaritan A Moveable Peace Bring On the Women! The Two Sides of Bread Waiting for the Ticket The Groove of the Spirit Jesus Is Not Like Congress A Divine Partnership What Kind of Love Is This? Boston Bombings and God Fishing and Forgiveness A New Kind of Joy Letting Christ Out The Sign of Inversion Our Doodling God A Parable of Love and Jealousy Not Enough Time The Ordinary and the Transcendent The Battle with the Devil God Is Not Kidding The Power of Love We Are the Body of Christ The Arc of Life Waiting for the Final Gift Displacement at Christmas Incarnating God Presenting the Mess Red Cake and Lima Beans A Call to Serve Beyond Asking Jesus’ Commandment Being Ready to Take God in the Foxhole God Is Still Working Adjusting What Is Necessary Learning from the Prophet Amos About Jesus’ Brothers The Most Popular Miracle The Importance of Hunger Eternal Life Influencing Others Finding the Right Proportion Do What You Love Stopping for the Least To Love Irritating People Marriage, Divorce, and Children Asking for More Drinking the Cup Terror in Paris God Will Come Boundaries, Security, and Generosity Feeling Movements of Life A Place to Learn God Uses Small Things Signs of Life When God Says No Christian Optimism From Transition to Call The Long Struggle The Gate of Heaven Common Sense or Hope The Spoiled Son An Oasis for Everyone Jesus’ Last Meal The Curious Omission Finding a Pony Anointing of the Sick A New Commandment After the Ascension Sin and Love The Cross and Joy The Call to Follow A Call for Humility Violence in America Two Thoughts on Prayer Live Today with Thanksgiving An Examined Life The Narrow Gate Serving Ourselves Losing Sheep Using Dishonest Wealth The Door and the Chasm Faith and Duty Distance and More Not Growing Weary Making a Difference Inadequacies and Grace Finding God Facing Turmoil Jesus, Remember Me The Lion and the Lamb Wild Like John Let Go in Love A Wider Christmas The Last Six Miles God’s Big Plan The Remnant The Salt of the Earth Beyond the Ten Commandments Love Your Enemy Focusing Our Worry How Evil Works Our Transfiguration Re-membering Our Lives Our Story If Only The Time for Hope A Second Greeting of Peace The Eucharist and Welcoming Practicing Non-Violence The Work of Forgiveness Why Are You Looking Up at the Sky? The Mystery of Salvation Being Thankful How Is a Burden Light? The Problem with Sparrows Eternal Creation Patient Vigilance Buried Treasure Thinking Again Where You Do Not Want to Go The Courage to Speak Humility and Truth Do Something Good Knowing the Song Acting Against Evil God Will Come What We Can Say Senseless Violence Invitation as a Threat What Belongs to God Two Commands, Side by Side Burdens We May Not See Foolish or Wise Accepting the Consequences Serving the Least Watching for Jesus Camels and Gnats Becoming Smaller The Christmas Barber The Ring of the Kings The Freedom and Faith of John the Baptist Zebedee The Opioid Crisis Approaching, Grasping, Lifting Up What God Intends The Battle with Satan Following Elijah and Moses Standing in Truth A God of Love or Condemnation When Life Turns Not Fully Prepared The Wounds We Carry Selling Onions Son of Encouragement To Love as God Loves Engagement with the World Doubting Disciples Sabbath Avoiding the Diabolical Persistent Hope Speaking the Word Within Us “And Also With You” Capital Punishment I Will Go On Three Wise Choices Will You Also Leave? Show No Partiality Carrying the Cross for Whom? Outside the Lines The Camel and the Needle Ask First for Sight What God Sees Only God The Arc of the Universe Turmoil, Fear, and Dismay The Gift of the Desert A Punch for the Holidays Politics and Religion Jesus Always Understands One Body God’s Love The Call Blessings and Woes Imitating God’s Mercy The Blind Leading the Blind The Devil’s Agenda Looking Closer, Looking Beyond Accepting God’s Love Mob Thinking The Easter Egg Fishing with Uncle Mike Loving Like Jesus God’s in Love with This World

Being Better to Each Other

May 4, 2014 click on left end of black bar to play-pause

May 4, 2014
Luke 24:13-35
Fr. George Smiga

I grew up on the east side of Cleveland on a small street just off of Nottingham Road. It was a great neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood where families would gather on one another’s porches on summer nights and kids would play ball in the street. Everyone in our neighborhood knew one another and looked out for one another—with one exception. In the middle of our street there was a house which was covered over with vines. The yard was filled with trees and shrubs which made the house difficult to see. Around the yard was an iron fence, and on the fence there was a gate, and on the gate there was a sign. It said: KEEP OUT. In that house lived a large bald man who everyone in our neighborhood called “The Russian.” I don’t know if anyone knew his real name. But if they did they never used it. “The Russian” had a big black dog that all of us kids in the neighborhood called Hell Hound, because if you even came close to the fence, that dog would come bouncing out barking and jumping like a dog out of Hell. It was only the fence that would keep him from biting you. No one ever talked to “The Russian.” You could see him sometimes in his yard smoking his pipe, but he lived alone. I was afraid of him.

But there’s more to the story. It began on my First Communion Day. Many of you here who are having your First Communion today are planning a party afterwards. After my First Communion we also had a party. And at the party I received some gifts. The best gift was from my Aunt Josie. She gave me a wiffle ball set. Now you might not know what a wiffle ball is. But it is a plastic ball about this big. It’s hollow and has big holes in it. There is also a big bat that comes with it that is also hollow and very light. The good thing about a wiffle ball set is that you can hit that ball as hard as you want and it doesn’t go too fast, and because it is not heavy, if it hits something or someone, there is  no damage done. So wiffle balls were great for playing in crowded neighborhoods, and my wiffle ball set was a big hit with my friends. All through the summer we would play wiffle ball after supper in the street.

Well one day I was at bat and the ball came to me. I hit it as hard as I could, and that ball flew off my bat, over the fence, into “The Russian’s” yard. All my buddies just looked in silence. They shook their heads and said, “This game is over.” They patted me on the back as they went home saying, “You’ll never see that ball again.” But I could see it. It was caught in a bush just inside “The Russian’s” fence. I knew that if I went to the fence and pushed my hand in as far as I could, I could get it back. But when I got to the fence, right next to the bush was Hell Hound. He had his eyes on me, and he was growling. I knew that if I pushed my arm through the fence, I would lose it. I went home sad.

But that night in bed I made a decision. I was not going to give up. Even though I was afraid, I was going to ask “The Russian” to give me my ball back. So the next morning I got up, crossed the street, and stood right in front of the gate. There was no need to knock. As soon as I got there Hell Hound came running out of the house. He was barking, and jumping, and throwing himself up against the fence. But I just stood there and waited. After a few moments the front door opened and “The Russian” came out. He was big. He was moving slowly down the front steps and he had his eye on me. But I did not move. I just waited. As he got closer he grasped Hell Hound by the collar—I was happy about that—and then he opened the gate. What I wanted to say was “Could I have my wiffle ball back, please.” But all the words left me, and I just stood there with my mouth open. Then “The Russian” shook his head slightly, reached into his jacket, and pulled out my wiffle ball. “I ‘tink dis belongs to you.” he said. “Don’t let it happen again.” “I won’t,” I said. I grabbed the ball and ran home.

My thoughts about “The Russian” changed that day. We never became friends. But ever after that, as I was riding my bike down the street, if I would see him in his yard smoking his pipe, I would yell out and wave. And he would look up and give me a little nod.

I tell you this story on First Communion Day, because I think it helps explain what we are doing here. Many of you young people are making your First Communion for the first time. Many of us here are making Communion for the thousandth time. We know that when we receive Communion, Jesus comes to us in a real way. But Christ comes to us for a purpose: he wants us to be better to one another. In life we will run into some different people, some strange people, some difficult people. Jesus wants us to give them the benefit of the doubt. They might not be as bad or as frightening as they seem. Jesus asks us to approach them with care and respect. This is what the disciples do in today’s gospel. They meet a stranger on the road and they do not dismiss him or ignore him. They walk with him and then invite him in to stay and eat with them. In that action they discover that the stranger is Jesus. So whenever we receive this Eucharist, whenever we gather at this table, Jesus is asking us to welcome the stranger, to treat people who are different with respect, because in doing so, we may find Jesus in them.

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