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Jesus Speaks to Today’s Issues!

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Do you ever wonder what Jesus would say about the hot-button issues in our life today? I do!  After listening to today’s Gospel story (Luke 9:51-62), I would say that Jesus has a lot to say about the major issues of our world today. 

As Jesus makes his journey with his disciples to Jerusalem where he will die, they enter a Samaritan town and they start looking for food and shelter. They are told to get lost. James and John want to rain down fire from heaven and destroy this town. But Jesus turns on James and John and really lets them have it for being so intolerant. 

What Jesus is doing here is teaching the DUTY OF TOLERANCE. Tolerance is a lost virtue today. We live in a society where people have such strong convictions. They are convinced that their own beliefs and opinions alone are the right ones – on immigration, racial issues, abortion, climate control, gay unions, gun control and especially politics.  

Jesus teaches his disciples then and Jesus teaches his would-be disciples today that we must be TOLERANT of other people.  

Jesus teaches that our tolerance must not be based on indifference. Nor is our tolerance to be based on the fact that we don’t care.  Jesus says that we ought to be tolerant because we must look at the other person with the eyes of love, with the eyes God uses.  

Abraham Lincoln was criticized again and again for being too kind to his enemies. There was a bloody Civil War going on and he was told that it was his duty to destroy his enemies. Lincoln replied:  “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

My own father was often intolerant of people of color. I tried to convince him to show some tolerance to people of color in our world, with no success. His mind was closed. At the age of 83 my dad wound up paralyzed from the waist down for 15 months before he died. Who were the only people in the hospitals and the nursing homes who cared for him for 15 months?  People of color.

People of color became his best friends. Every time I came to visit him, the first thing he would do would be to introduce me to the wonderful person who fed him, or got him out of bed, or gave him a sponge bath, shaved him and changed his gowns. They were all people of color!

Why were these people of color now so beloved to my father? The answer is obvious. At the age of 83 he was FINALLY able to look at them with the eyes of love. At age 83 my Dad came to see and to understand that Black lives really mattered a whole lot to him. It took his own paralysis to get him to that point of tolerance and especially love.  

Today Jesus is teaching all of us about dealing with the hot-button issues of our world — Don’t wait until you are 83 years old and confined to a bed or a wheelchair to start looking at other people who you now condemn……with the eyes of love. 

In 2007 Dr. William Fanizzi passed away at the age of 82. He was a loved and respected pediatrician in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  For several years I had the pleasure of chatting with him after the noon mass at St. Anthony’s Parish. He was as loving and as caring a man as I have ever met. 

Dr. Fanizzi was born and raised in New York City and had a life-long love of the New York Yankees. 

Msgr. Michael Souckar was the celebrant and homilist for Dr. Fanizzi’s funeral mass. Msgr. Souckar began his homily by saying that in 1962 Dr. Fanizzi bought two choice seats to the World Series between the Yankees and the New York Giants. His whole life he had dreamed of going to see his beloved Yankees play in the World Series. 

As he was getting ready to leave Florida for New York, Dr. Fanizzi got a call that one his patients was having complications with the upcoming birth of her baby. Would he please come to the hospital? Dr. Fanizzi could easily have asked another doctor to see the woman. But he felt an obligation to his patient. His vocation was a doctor. 

So this doctor had to make a choice – Yankee Stadium in New York or the delivery room in Ft. Lauderdale? Dr. Fanizzi chose the delivery room. In fact, he did not sell or give away his choice tickets. He kept them. The unused tickets always reminded him of WHO HE WAS and what was his calling in life. 

Then Msgr. Souckar paused and choking back tears said: “That baby that Dr. Fanizzi stayed for and delivered WAS ME!”

I have reflected upon what Msgr. Souckar said many times.  One of my thoughts is that the Catholic Church doesn’t have enough men wanting to go into the priesthood today like Msgr. Souckar did because the Church doesn’t have enough Dr. Fanizzis’ to inspire them. 

Think of a time when YOU did something like Dr. Fanizzi did. What group of people do YOU need to start looking at with the eyes of love the way my father finally did?  


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