Submitted by Andy Buchleitner for April 2018:
“DISCUSSION IS A MOST EXCELLENT MEANS TO AVOID DECISION” (Bishop Sheen)
I live on a road that has been continually washed away by storms during its twenty-five years of existence. After millions of dollars in repair and countless hours of discussion seeking a remedy, our County has, once again, come up with yet more brilliant ideas of how to continue fixing/paying for this “problem.” And with these new ideas come the usual, “But first, let’s do a feasibility study.” Now I would be the first to agree that there needs to be a plan; a course of action discussed, agreed upon and implemented. What I have difficulty with is the tens of thousands of dollars that always need to be spent on discussion, to ultimately identify the same self-evident problem. It happens every time a new initiative is implemented and the result is always the same - another year, another road repair and a discussion group that now enjoys some easy extra money to stuff in their wallet. I give this example to lead into the subject of this month’s reflection: “Charity is a matter of decision – not discussion.”
I always feel privileged when I enable a new volunteer to join me in my efforts to serve the poor. I usually discover when I make my invitation that these volunteers were just waiting for the opportunity to serve, they just needed someone to ask them. When they first begin, however, I find that most are unsure of what to do or how to act and so will initially rely on the skills they have developed throughout their lives. Unfortunately, the most common shared skill seems to be the need for discussion, meetings or what could better be called “procrastination.”
This leaves me in somewhat of a quandary. On the one hand, I am certainly happy that their hearts are open to address the needs of others. On the other hand, I realize that those needs will not get addressed simply by talking about them. In fact, during my nearly thirty years in ministry, I do not remember one individual whom I have served that has thanked me for simply talking about their problem. They were, however, always grateful for the assistance that I provided. They were not really concerned with how it got done, they just appreciated that help was given and that their need was met.
I always like to look at the wisdom of St. Teresa of Calcutta. One of my favorites from her is, “There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Pick up a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough.” Another of her equally insightful quotes truly puts things in perspective, “I am deeply impressed by the fact that before explaining the Word of God, before presenting to the crowds the eight Beatitudes, Jesus had compassion on them and gave them food. Only then did He begin to teach them.” Scripture gives us the revealing (and certainly very important) fact that He fed them physically before He fed them spiritually. The tangible “preaching of the Gospel” gave His words meaning.
We all, on occasion, need a push. Fear of the unknown or of change can paralyze us. And it’s usually much easier to “talk” than “do,” especially if that “doing” requires us to move out of our comfort zone. Having just completed another Lenten journey, I am once again inspired that our faith identifies Charity as one of the three most important activities (along with prayer/fasting and almsgiving) that lead to a more perfect conversion and union with our Father. It’s now the beginning of a new year in our Franciscan life,” let us begin again” with renewed enthusiasm. Let us not look at the world as hopelessly lost but as offering us the opportunity to bring the peace, joy and Love that will last through all eternity – where words will no longer be needed.
“The test of a preacher is that the congregation goes away saying, not ‘What a lovely sermon!’ but ‘I will do something!’” (St. Francis de Sales)
(Received from Andy April 5, 2018)