God is Love...

Catechetical Center of Bangkok

7th Sunday of the Year
1 Samuel 26:2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49; Luke 6:27–38

Law of the echo
The “law of the echo’’ says we get back from life exactly what we give to it.

Awoman was paging through the morning paper. Suddenly her eyes fell upon an ad in the personal column. It read:

“Are you lonely, depressed, or desperate? Call 239–4305 and just listen.’’

Out of sheer curiosity  the woman went to the phone and dialed the number. A pleasant voice answered and said:

“Know that wherever you find yourself there also you will find God. God is within you. You are never alone. No matter where you are or in what situation you find yourself, God is always there to help you.’’

The voice then went on to talk about the “law of the echo.’’

This law says that if you shout into an echo chamber, a shout will return to you. If you curse into an echo chamber, a curse will return to you.

And if you sing into an echo chamber, a song will come back to you. The voice went on to say that the “law of the echo’’ also applies to life. In other words, you get back from life
exactly what you give to life.

Today’s gospel illustrates what that means in the concrete.

It says, “Forgive others, and God will forgive you. Give to others, and God will give to you.”
There’s a famous story about a foolish man who heard that Buddha taught that you should never return evil for evil.

One day the man met Buddha and decided to see if Buddha actually practiced what he preached. The man began heaping
all kinds of verbal abuse upon the great teacher, shouting at him and calling him a stupid fool.

All the while, Buddha listened patiently. When the man ran out of things to say, Buddha said to him, “My son, if a man declines to accept a gift from another, to whom does the gift go?’’

The man replied scornfully, “Any fool knows that. The gift goes back to the giver!’’

“My son,’’ said Buddha, “you have just given me much verbal abuse. I decline to accept your gift.’’

The man made no reply.

Then Buddha said further:

“My son, a man who slanders a virtuous person is like a man who spits at the sky. The spittle doesn’t soil the sky. It only comes back to soil the face of the man who spit.

“A man who slanders a virtuous person is like a man who flings dust into the wind. The dust doesn’t reach its target.
It only blows back into the face of the man who threw it.’’

That famous story of Buddha is another illustration of what is meant by the “law of the echo.’’

A person gets back from life exactly what the person gives
to life. Give abuse and you will get abuse back. Give love
and you will get love back.

Many people are lonely and depressed today because of the “law of the echo.’’

They have either forgotten or neglected to reach out to others.
As a result, no one has reached out to them.

Some time ago a woman wrote a meditation for The Upper Room, which is a daily prayer manual.

She said that at one point in her life she was confined to a state mental hospital. As her stay in the hospital extended
from days to weeks, her depression deepened.

Since her family lived in Europe, there was no family to whom she could turn for help.

Then one day the woman got the news that her only sister had been murdered. She fell into an even deeper depression.

It was while in this mental state that the woman happened to see a notice on the hospital bulletin board. It read, “Volunteers needed in geriatrics.’’ She decided to respond to the notice.

Let’s now listen to her own words about what happened next.
She writes:
“Why I responded is known only to God, but it was God’s will to bring me back to life.

“Each day spent with the geriatric patients awakened something within me until it burst forth the day I told Miguel,
a forsaken, forgotten, paralyzed old man who cried big tears and sobbed constantly, that I loved him.

“He stopped crying and looked into my eyes. ‘You do?’
he asked with the innocence of a child. ‘I do,’ I answered.

“At that moment I began to live again.’’

There could hardly be a clearer illustration of the “law of the echo.’’ You get back from life what you put into it. “Forgive others, and God will forgive you. Give to others, and God will give to you.”

Today’s gospel is an invitation to check our lives and see if perhaps we have forgotten or neglected the “law of the echo.’’

Are we perhaps lonely or depressed because we have failed
to reach out to others, and for that reason they have failed
to reach out to us?

Are we perhaps lonely or depressed because we have returned evil for evil and have reaped a harvest of evil in return?

Are we perhaps lonely or depressed because we have forgotten what the voice on the telephone said:

“Know that wherever you find yourself there also you will find God. God is within you. You are never alone. No matter where you are or in what situation you find yourself, God is always there to help you.’’

Let’s close with a prayer:

Lord, when we become lonely or depressed, remind us of the “law of the echo.’’

Remind us that we get back from life exactly what we give
to life. If we forgive, we will be forgiven. If we give, we will receive. If we love, we will be loved. If we sing a song to others,
they will sing a song to us.

Lord, let us never forget the “law of the echo.’’ What we sow we shall reap.
Series II
7th Sunday of the Year
1 Samuel 26:2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49; Luke 6:27–38

Rediscovering fire
“Someday . . . we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.’’ Teilhard de Chardin

Years ago E. Stanley Jones wrote an article called “Somebody Needs You.’’

Among other things, the article described how America’s leading psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, decided to run his entire clinic on the assumption that what his patients needed most was love. And so he told his staff:

“From the chief psychiatrist down to the gardener, our contacts for a while are going to be love contacts. If you
go into a patient’s room to change a light bulb, go in with
an attitude of love.’’

After six months the results of the program were evaluated.
The staff discovered that the average period of hospitalization
had been cut in half.
Jones also told about a New York hospital that was losing a high percentage of children ages one year and under.

What stymied the staff and the administrators was that, technically, the hospital was “state of the art’’ in every
respect. In spite of this, something was clearly missing.
Finally, someone suggested that the missing ingredient in the hospital was an environment of love.

And so the staff put out a call for “love volunteers’’: women who would do nothing but love babies so many hours a day.

The response to the call was overwhelming. It came
largely from women whose children were grown and
whose grandchildren often lived in distant cities.

After four months, the chief of staff made this comment:
“We could no more do without these love volunteers
than we could do without [medicine].’’

Finally, a book entitled Family Matters, written by John Catoir, reports on an innovative project in Buffalo,Minnesota.

It combines a retirement home and a day-care center. This facilitates mingling of toddlers, preschoolers, and the senior citizens of the home. John Thompson, minister of the retirement home, says:

“As hard as we try to keep our residents active and
alert, those kids do a better job of just doing what kids do.
Their life, youth, and energy keep everybody stimulated.’’

And the kids are also big winners in the project. Children
see beyond wrinkles and gray hair to what really counts:
the heart of a person. Thompson says:

“What children are looking for is a hug, a lap, a kind word, a touch, somebody to read them a story, somebody to smile and share with.’’ That’s what they get from the senior citizens.
These three stories, as you probably noticed, all have something important in common.

All three deal with love and the power of love. Moreover,
all three deal with ideas that some people call creative and innovative.

At second glance, however, they are neither creative nor innovative.

They are simply everyday applications of Jesus’ 2,000-year-old commandment to love not just our family and our neighbor, but anyone who needs love even our enemies.

E. Stanley Jones says in his article, “It sounds too simple.’’
But it’s right here that we find the glory of it all the glory of Jesus’ commandment of love. “The glory,’’ says Jones,  “is that we may finally learn enough simplicity to follow [Jesus’ 2,000-year-old commandment].’’

Theologian Teilhard de Chardin was so deeply moved by the conviction that love is what our world needs, more than anything else, that he wrote:

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love,
and then, for the second time in the history of the world,
we will have discovered fire.’’

The discovery of fire 80,000 years ago saved the human race from extinction. This discovery inspired Jean-Jacques Arnaud
to produce a movie called Quest for Fire. It dramatized how the discovery and harnessing of fire saved humankind from destruction.

Teilhard de Chardin was concerned, as many are today,
that the human race is again in danger of extinction.
This time it is not from the absence of fire but from the absence of something more basic: love.

Nuclear capability and human inability or unwillingness
to love one another are threatening survival on our planet.
Unless we rediscover love and harness its energies, we may not make it through another century. Concerned people wonder:

Eighty years from now will someone produce another movie
called Quest for Love to celebrate the rediscovery of love just in time to save the human race?

And so today’s gospel invites us to rediscover Jesus’ 2,000-year-old commandment of love love for our families, love for our neighbor, love for anyone who needs it, and—perhaps, in this age of ours love, especially, for our enemies.

Jesus’ commandment of love is no longer a directive for Christians. It is an essential for all peoples. The very survival of our modern world may depend on it.
Series III
7th Sunday of the Year
1 Samuel 26:2, 7–9, 12–13, 22–23; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49; Luke 6:27–38

Love your enemies
Forgive others and God will forgive you.

Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27–28

President Ronald Reagan appointed Edmund Morris to write the authorized biography of his life and presidency.

Morris called the biography Dutch, which was the nickname
Reagan got early in his life and kept all of his life.

A dramatic event described in his biography occurred three months after Reagan took office in 1981.

On March 30, he had just finished a luncheon talk at the Washington Hilton Hotel. As he and his entourage left the hotel, a gunman fired six shots. The president and three of
his aides were hit.

Four minutes later, the president was being wheeled into Washington Hospital. The speed with which he was rushed
to the hospital, says Morris, saved his life. Later, Reagan described for him what went on in his mind as doctors began working on him. The president said:

I focused on the tile ceiling and prayed. But I realized I could not ask for God’s help,while at the same time I felt hatredfor
 the mixed-up young man who shot me. . . .

We are all God’s children and, therefore, equally loved by God.
So, I began to pray for the young man.

Having prayed for him, Reagan could then calmly ask God
to help him, which God did.

That inspiring passage in Reagan’s biography brings us to today’s Gospel.

It is taken from the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:44),
where Jesus says to his disciples:

“Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27–28

It is remarkable that, in such a critical condition, Reagan should recall that hard teaching of Jesus. It is even more remarkable that he not only recalled it but put it into practice instantly.
Speaking of the Sermon on the Mount, Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian leader, once told a Christian audience:

If I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it,I should not hesitate to say,“Yes, I am a Christian. . . .”But negatively I can tell you that much of
what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on
the Mount.
Quoted by John Donahue, S.J., America magazine (December 12, 2001)

Gandhi’s point was that many Christians pay lip service
to the Sermon on the Mount, but that’s the extent of it.
Gandhi’s words recall a homily that dates back to the early days of Christianity.

It appears in the Liturgy of the Hours, a book that priests and
some laypeople use for their daily prayer.

A part of the homily reads :

The Lord says, “My name is constantly blasphemed by unbelievers. . . . Why is the Lord’s name blasphemed by unbelievers? Because so many of his followers say one
 thing, but do another.”

When unbelievers hear the word of God on our lips, they are moved by its beauty and power.

But when they see that those words have little or no impact on our lives,their admiration turns to scorn. Vol. 4, Wk. 32, Thursday of Ordinary Time

What we need badly in our time are more inspiring examples like Reagan’s.

This brings us to a second teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel. He says:

“[F]orgive others, and God will forgive you.” Luke 6:37

Again, an example will help to illustrate how Jesus intended us to live out this command.
Mrs. Hannah was a widow in Colorado. Her daughter was brutally murdered. The killer was convicted and sentenced.

Mrs. Hannah could not forgive him, no matter how hard she tried. This failure led to a bitterness that totally destroyed her peace of soul. One day, in the depths of her desolation, she remembered Jesus’ command to forgive others.

She bought a Bible, wrote a note of forgiveness in it, and sent it to the man who had murdered her daughter.

That Christlike gesture had a remarkable impact on both Mrs. Hannah and the prisoner.

It took took away the bitterness in Mrs. Hannah’s heart and fully restored her peace of soul.

The impact on the prisoner was even more remarkable.

Before he received Mrs. Hannah’s note, he was filled with anguish and doubt that God would ever forgive him. After
he received the note, he realized that if Mrs. Hannah could forgive him, so God could and would forgive him.

Today’s Gospel contains a message that millions of people
need to hear and are waiting to hear.

It is a message that can restore peace of mind and peace of soul to people who have been hurt and to people who have done the hurting. And one of those people may be ourselves.
Let us conclude with a note that was found on the body of a dead child in Ravensbruck concentration camp:

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will,
but also those of ill will.

Do not remember the suffering they inflicted upon us. Remember the fruits we have bought thanks to our suffering:

our comradeship with one another, our loyalty to one another,

our courage, our generosity, and our greatness of heart that has grown out of all this.

And when they come before you for judgment, let all the fruits
that we have reaped through our suffering, be their forgiveness.
Quoted in “Take Up Your Cross” by Mary Craig  in The Way magazine (January, 1973)