There is a story about a man who sought out a spiritual guide for advice.
The guide welcomed the man and proceeded to pour him a cup of coffee. When the cup overflowed, the spiritual guide kept pouring. When the saucer spilled over with coffee, the guide kept pouring. When the hot coffee started stinging the man’s fingers, he complained loudly, “What are you doing?”
The spiritual guide calmly replied, “I’m teaching you a lesson. You come to me seeking spiritual fulfillment, but you are already full. There is simply no room for anything else. Go home and empty yourself. Then come back with a heart that has room for God.“
Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel: “Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry” (Luke 6:17, 20-26). Jesus is telling us that we are full of OURSELVES, our thoughts, our needs, our desires and our fantasies.
I find it revealing to consider the evolution of magazine titles during my lifetime. Growing up I read LIFE magazine. Then came LOOK and later PEOPLE magazine. Then came US magazine. Then a magazine called SELF came along where this month you can find 35 fun things to do on Valentine’s Day, that include enjoying a smash session at a rage room. I’m not into smashing sessions, but I do admit that all too often I am so full of myself.
Jesus is telling us that his followers must be different. His followers must live by a different drumbeat. We who call ourselves Christians must have different values and attitudes than many of the people around us. We need to empty our hearts and make room for God.
You probably remember Ed Bradley, the correspondent for 60 Minutes for 26 years. Born in 1941, Ed Bradley died in 2006. His parents divorced when he was two years old. When he was nine, his mother enrolled him in the Holy Providence School, an all-black Catholic boarding school run by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania. He later attended Mount Saint Charles Academy, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He graduated in 1959 from Saint Thomas More Catholic Boys High School in West Philadelphia and then another historically black school, Cheyney State College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1964 with a degree in education.
One of the most intriguing segments Ed Bradley ever did for 60 Minutes was about a family with a religiously devout mother in her 30’s, an older and painfully shy father and their ten-year old daughter. Their ten-year old daughter was bound to a wheelchair by spina bifida.
Every year the family made a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France where healings occur. (Full disclosure: I was cured of my severe right leg sciatic pain at Lourdes in 2000).
Ed Bradley was interviewing the family about their pilgrimages in his usual sophisticated way. He kept trying to give the family a hard time for being so gullible, spending all that money every year thinking that their ten-year old daughter would be cured of her spina bifida at Lourdes.
At one point Bradley turned to the little girl and asked: “When you pray, what do you pray for?” She replied, “I pray that my father won’t be so shy. It makes him very lonely!”
That response stopped Bradley cold for a few seconds. But being Ed Bradley, he pressed on, questioning the mother why they spend thousands of dollars every year going to Lourdes and still they have no miracle.
The mother then looked down at her daughter, her face beaming with love, and answered: “Oh, Mr. Bradley, you just don’t get it. WE HAVE OUR MIRACLE!”
Ed Bradley didn’t get it. His mindset was that the only miracle worth noticing, was the one that fit HIS definition – that their precious girl would get up and walk.
On November 9, 2006, when I heard that Ed Bradley had died at the age of 65, I wondered if in eternity he saw the miracle of the girl’s growing love for her father and a family tightly held together by their faith in Someone and Something greater than the three of them. I bet that Ed Bradley now sees that God does not work in the ways that we expect, because God’s love breaks the bounds of our narrow imagination.
While here on earth, Ed Bradley was like the rest of us – we are so full of OURSELVES, that our hearts have no room for God, and we are unable to see what God is doing in our own lives and in our world today. And on days like today we are filled with the Super Bowl, the game and all of its commercials, to be enjoyed for sure, but it is only a distraction.
How often are YOU filled with YOURSELF, your thoughts, your needs, your desires and your fantasies that YOU have no room for God?
WHEN YOU LET GO, SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPENS! YOU GIVE GOD ROOM TO WORK IN YOUR HEART!!