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A Change of Focus

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A mother came home one afternoon to discover that her kitchen was a disaster area. Her young daughter obviously had been making cookies and the ingredients were scattered across the counters and the floor, along with dirty bowls and utensils. She was not happy with the situation. She had spent hours that morning in cleaning the kitchen. 

            Then as the mother looked a little more closely at the mess, she spied a tiny note on the table, clumsily written and smeared with chocolate fingerprints. The message was short: “I’m makin’ somethin’ special for you, Mom.” And it was signed, “Your Angel.”

            In the midst of all the disarray and in spite of her irritation, a pure and simple joy sprung up in that mother’s heart. Why? Her attention had been re-directed from  the “problem” to the “little girl she loved.” Call it a change of focus that leads to a change of heart. 

            We see this in today’s Gospel (Luke 2:22-40). Mary and Joseph take their new-born child to the temple in Jerusalem to be purified and consecrated to the Lord. Two elderly people in the temple had spent their whole lives in the temple waiting for a sign from God. Simeon and Anna  had seen thousands of lambs, turtledoves and pigeons sacrificed to God as signs of gratitude and praise. 

            But when Mary and Joseph came in with the child Jesus, their eyes changed focus and they saw what they had longed to see —  a Savior —  their hearts were changed and their dreams were fulfilled. 

            On this Holy Family Sunday our own families and our nation as a whole cries out for what happened to the mother in the kitchen and to Simeon and Anna in the temple. People at home often leave a mess that someone else is supposed to clean up or maybe learn to live with. What changed the mother’s focus and then her heart was not a Hallmark card on the counter from her daughter, but the deep love she felt for her Mom expressed in her own words. 

            When I asked a friend of mine a few days after Thanksgiving about how his day went, his words brought tears to my eyes. He said that for first time in over 50 years of dating and marriage, he spent the whole day with his wife. None of their kids, grandkids or friends came by because of the pandemic. He said that after all those years of being together he finally had all the time in the world to tell his dear wife how much she has meant to him, how he has grown in love for her over the years, how patient and caring she has been to him all these years and how he looks forward to the years ahead with her. He said that as Thanksgiving day wore on they lit candles to savor the glow in each other’s faces and eyes. He said that he changed the focus from the pandemic and missing family and friends to his wonderful wife and it opened up chambers of his heart that he had never shared before. 

            Our nation cries out in desperation for a change of focus that will lead to a change of heart. With the various people I come into contact with, I cannot recall one instance in the last four years where I heard a Republican say a decent thing about a Democrat or a Democrat who did not berate a Republican. I sense that there is more than a difference of political opinions going on. I sense that one person is detesting the other person and looking down on them for who or for what they believe in. 

            I wonder why the Covid-19 pandemic has not brought us as a nation to a change in focus. Why has not the suffering and deaths equally shared by Democrats and Republicans led us to a change of heart? Why have we let the Covid-19 pandemic become as political as it has become? Why has wearing a mask or not wearing a mask become so political?

            I suppose the mother in my story could have read what her daughter wrote, taken a second look at the mess in her kitchen and then gone and grabbed her daughter, called her a Little Devil, and sent her to her room for the rest of the day. 

            I suppose Simeon and Anna could have given baby Jesus back to Mary and Joseph and then gone into a corner of the temple and complained to God how they had wasted their entire lives waiting for him to show up. 

            I suppose my friend who spent Thanksgiving with his wife, could have built some more self-protective emotional walls and watched the football games on TV all day and called it a Pandemic Thanksgiving.

            There is a lot at stake with what is happening in our families and our nation. Are you willing to change your focus so that it will change your heart? Devil or Angel?

            What you see is really who you are?


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