One day Elisha came to Shunem, where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he used to stop there to dine. So she said to her husband, "I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there." Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight. Later Elisha asked, "Can something be done for her?" His servant Gehazi answered, "Yes! She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years." Elisha said, "Call her." When the woman had been called and stood at the door, Elisha promised, "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son."
1) The promises of the Lord I will sing forever,
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, "My kindness is established forever;"
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness. (Refrain)
2) Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O Lord, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted. (Refrain)
3) You are the splendor of their strength,
and by your favor our horn is exalted.
For to the Lord belongs our shield,
and the Holy One of Israel, our king. (Refrain)
Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
Jesus said to his apostles: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple - amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
In our gospel passage, our Lord tells his disciples that "whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward". In other words, no act of kindness, no matter how small, will go unrewarded. And in our first reading, we heard a very specific example of this when Elisha the prophet rewarded one woman's kindness with the promise of newborn child.
However, sometimes an act of kindness may go unrewarded. As Ghandi once said:
- "It's the action, not the fruit of the action that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean that you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results may come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result at all".
One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is exactly this: kindness. One of the documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, put it this way:
- "The laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called...so that...(the) fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all (of) their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit - indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born - all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshiping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives." (1)
It is our responsibility, as disciples of Christ ourselves, to see all others as potential disciples too, persons who may see Christ in our acts of kindness to them. And, in the true Spirit of one hand not knowing what the other does, these acts should be performed even when the recipients cannot reward us.
- A woman in a red Honda, Christmas presents piled high in the back, drives up to the Bay Bridge toll booth in San Francisco. "I'm paying for myself, and for the six cars behind me," she says with a smile, handing over seven commuter tickets. One after another, the next six drivers arrive at the toll booth, dollars in hand, only to be told, "Some lady up ahead already paid your fare. Have a nice day."
In Paterson, New Jersey, a dozen people with pails and mops and tulip bulbs descend on a run-down house and clean it from top to bottom while the frail elderly owners look on, dazed and smiling.
In Chicago, a teenage boy is shoveling a driveway when the impulse strikes. Nobody's looking, he thinks, and shovels the neighbor's driveway too.
A woman in Boston writes "Merry Christmas!" to the tellers on the back of her checks. A man plants daffodils along the roadway, his shirt billowing in the breeze from passing cars.
In Seattle, a man appoints himself a one-man vigilante sanitation service and roams the concrete hills collecting litter in a supermarket cart.
In Atlanta, a man scrubs graffiti from a green park bench. (2)
Even in our secular world, the value of kindness has been well recognized. All of these people were responding to a the challenge of a new phrase which they had heard: practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. It all started in California with a woman named Anne Herbert. It was in a Sausalito restaurant that Herbert jotted the phrase down on a paper placemat, after turning it around in her mind for days. "That's wonderful!" a man sitting nearby said, as he copied it carefully on his own placemat. "Here's the idea," Herbert says. "Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly. Kindness can build on itself as much as violence can." Now the phrase is spreading, on bumper stickers, on walls, at the bottom of letters and business cards. And as it spreads, so does a vision of guerrilla goodness. It's positive anarchy, disorder, a sweet disturbance. (2)
Just as our Lord noted in today's gospel, an act of kindness need not be something done on a grand scale, but something as little as a glass of cold water. All that is needed is some thoughtfulness, with a dash of understanding and compassion thrown in for good measure.
- The following story is told of a young girl who walked in on her mother in the kitchen one day..
"Mommy, what are you doing?" asked Susie.
"I'm making a casserole for Mrs. Smith next door," said her mother.
"Why?" asked Susie, who was only six years old.
"Because Mrs. Smith is very sad; she lost her daughter and she has a broken heart. We need to take care of her for a little while."
'"Well, you see, Susie, when someone is very, very sad, they have trouble doing the little things like making dinner or other chores. Because we're part of a community and Mrs. Smith is our neighbor, we need to do some things to help her. Mrs. Smith won't ever be able to talk with her daughter or hug her or do all those wonderful things that mommies and daughters do together. You are a very smart girl, Susie; maybe you'll think of some way to help take care of Mrs. Smith."
Susie thought seriously about this challenge and how she could do her part in caring for Mrs. Smith. A few minutes later, Susie knocked on Mrs. Smith's door. After a few moments, Mrs. Smith opened the door and said "Hi, Susie." Susie noticed that Mrs. Smith didn't seem to have that familiar musical quality about her voice that she usually had when she greeted someone. Mrs. Smith also looked as though she might have been crying because her eyes were watery and swollen.
"What can I do for you, Susie?" asked Mrs. Smith.
"My mommy says that you lost your daughter and you're very, very sad with a broken heart." Susie held her hand out shyly. In it was a Band-Aid.
"This is for your broken heart." Mrs. Smith gasped, knelt down and hugged Susie. Through her tears she said, "Thank you, darling girl, this will help a lot."
Mrs. Smith accepted Susie's act of kindness and took it one step further. She purchased a small key ring with a plexiglass picture frame--the ones designed to carry keys and proudly display a family portrait at the same time. Mrs. Smith placed Susie's Band-Aid in the frame to remind herself to heal a little every time she sees it. She wisely knows that healing takes time and support. It has become her symbol for healing, while not forgetting the joy and love she experienced with her own daughter. (3)
It is said that you can't smile without cheering yourself up a little--likewise, you can't commit a random kindness without feeling as if your own troubles have been lightened if only because the world has become a slightly better place.
And you can't be a recipient without feeling a shock, a pleasant jolt. Susie's little act of kindness certainly helped her neighbor through her period of grief. And if you were one of those rush-hour drivers who found your bridge fare paid, who knows what you might have been inspired to do for someone else later? Perhaps wave someone on in the intersection? Smile at a tired clerk? Or something larger, greater? Like all revolutions, guerrilla goodness begins slowly, with a single act. Let it be yours. (2)
1. from The Catechism, paragraph 901, copyright 1994 by the U.S. Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C. (Reprinted with permission from The Catechism. Quoted from Lumen Gentium, paragraph 34, and reprinted with permission from Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, New Revised Edition, edited by Austin Flannery, O.P., copyright 1992, Costello Publishing Company, Inc., Northport, NY.
2. Practice Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty, copyright 1991 by Adair Lara. Reprinted with permission from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp. 34-36, copyright 1995 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
3. An Act of Kindness for a Broken Heart, copyright 1994 by Meladee McCarty. Reprinted with permission from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp. 163-164, copyright 1995 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
Lord Jesus, you call us to love you more than our own fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you call us to take up our cross and follow you. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us to be kind to one another as we would be kind to you. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also rise with him to a new life. Because he cares for us as only a brother can and will intercede for us, we can confidently bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the Church will proclaim the Good News of Christ's resurrection by word and example, we pray to the Lord.
That the peoples of the nations of the world will put aside their differences and live in peace, we pray to the Lord.
That the poor, the handicapped and all those in need will come to see the love that God has for them in our acts of kindness, we pray to the Lord.
That we will grow in our love for all of God's little ones including the unborn, the elderly and the terminally ill, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have been affected by natural disasters, including the flooding in the South and the tornadoes in the Midwest, will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives and not give in to despair, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, through our baptism into the death of your Son we will also be raised to eternal life with him. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to live our lives according to the principles and values that he has taught us and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.