Stories for the Right Column of the Columns Page
C.S. Lewis was a great writer who wrote powerful defences of Christianity. Yet when his wife died, he struggled to continue writing positively about God. "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear," said Lewis. To turn his observation around: No one ever told me fear felt so much like grief. In my experience, to be truly afraid - afraid for the future, afraid for a loved one, afraid of loving something or someone dear to you - is a lot like grief. You become numb to the world around you, and to the world within you.
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One advantage of prolonged foreign travel is that you meet many new people. They sit by you as you wait for your plane. They ask to share your table in a crowded restaurant. They share the same bench in the park. And they talk. They tell you their life's stories, share with you their joys and sufferings. Should you, God forbid, end up in a hospital, you hear stories so personal that you might even be a bit shocked. In southern Europe, Italy included, people are far less reticent than in Canada. The same applies to my native Poland.
"Decide today whom you will serve." Joshua sure doesn't mince words. So, whom do I serve? In one of my classes at St. Joe's College, I remember learning a useful Martin Luther quotation: "That to which your heart clings is your god." It is just another way of saying what Jesus said when he told us we cannot serve both God and money.
I recently heard of a practice that has purportedly risen in Naples in response to the poor in their midst. People will buy a coffee or sandwich in the shops and pay for an extra one "pending." The people on the street know they can go to certain shops and ask if there are any coffees or lunches pending. If someone has paid ahead for one, they get what they need. It is a lovely idea.
Early this past June, I found I was in Ottawa at the same time as the concluding events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Since I had been involved with the Alberta National TRC event held in Edmonton a year earlier, I took advantage of the opportunity to attend this historic event. A special Catholic liturgy was held the previous Saturday at St. Joseph's Church, the historic Oblate parish in Ottawa.
This Sunday's readings are all about bread. In our day, bread is maligned as a dangerous source of deadly carbs. But for at least 10,000 years, bread, as opposed to meat, was the food of civilized humans. Bread was the staple food of humanity and thus became a powerful symbol of goodness, plenty and also of home.
In this week's Gospel Jesus says, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." The simple truth is that all of us need this heavenly bread. We are hungry. We are broken. We are needy. Just think of all the ways we try to deny and hide this great hunger in our souls. Alcohol and drugs. Saturating our life in media. Distractions and entertainment of all kinds.