Occasion: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Since today is Father's Day, I'd like to begin by sharing with you a story about a particular father as told by Zig Ziglar, the famous and much-loved self-help guru of past decades. He tells the story of a father who had brought work home one day in preparation for an important meeting the next day. He had to focus on his work, but unfortunately, his young son kept interrupting him, over and over again. But this particular father was very loving and very patient, and not to discourage his son, he gave him a little project to work on. He went to a magazine and he happened upon a map of the world, taking up a full page. So he tore the map out of the book as his excited boy looked to this next challenge from his father with eyes wide open. Then his father took the map and tore it up into tiny little pieces and he asked his boy to put the map back together again by looking at the pieces to see where they fit.
"This should occupy him for a while."
Three minutes later, the child came back with the map all taped together in perfect order! "Wow," thought the father. "my boy is a geo-political genius." He thought to himself. "How did you do it so fast?" He asked the boy.
"Easy," said the boy, "on the other side of the map was a picture of a face. I just put the face together and the map was done."
Isn't that like our lives? We look at our world and our lives and our values and our troubles and concerns and they are all mixed up and jumbled, Worse, they are almost impossible to put together correctly and sometimes we just get it wrong. Really wrong. But underneath our world is a picture of the face of Jesus. If we can focus on Jesus when we are trying to figure out the world, the world will come together as it should. When we focus on the world first, we can see our mistakes very clearly because of the effects it has on his face, sometimes even turning his smile into a frown. If, on the other hand, we can focus on putting together the face of Jesus, the world will be ok, and us with it.
My second story is related, it has to do with selfishness and the pursuit of happiness. Sometimes when we are trying to put together the map of the world, we are trying to put it together the way we want it or the way we think it should go, which, in all honesty, often has nothing to do with the face of Jesus or the love that Jesus has for us. But if we only pursue our own needs and desires, which is necessary sometimes. I get that (it is always ok to ask for help in getting our needs met), but our happiness will always remain elusive if we depend solely on others to meet our needs. Our happiness is not based on the pursuit of self.
So a teacher had each of his children blow up a balloon and write their names on it with a magic marker. Then he took all the balloons into the hallway and mixed them up and gave them a minute to find their own balloon. None of them could do it. The balloons remained elusive. Then, the teacher took the kids back into the classroom and this time asked them to take the first balloon they see, look at the name and give it to the person whose name is on it. They did it in less than 15 seconds.
The moral of the story, of both stories, really, is really about the pursuit of happiness. If each balloon represents our own happiness, then it is very very difficult to find our own happiness ourselves. It is only when we start looking for the happiness of others that we begin to experience real happiness, both individually and as a community.
Perhaps that's what Jesus sent out his disciples to do. To help each other find happiness. Or, in the immortal words of Psalm 151 (I'm only kidding, there is no Psalm 151, there are only 150. To me, Psalm 151 is just a contemporary song or poem).
Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on...