Keepin an Eye out for Turtles & Troubies

Friday of the First Week of Advent; 12-6-13

Isaiah 29:17-24   Ps 27   Matthew 9:27-31

                            Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis High Scho0l

            In her Advent & Christmas daily reflections, Joy Cormier references Nora Gallagher’s The Sacred Meal which tells the story of a newbie bishop, who began his ministry by visiting every parish in his diocese to meet the clergy and laity.  Not wanting to spend idle time in the car, he’d listen to CDs on religious topics, perhaps purchased from the Religious Ed. Congress.  He thought it was important that he’d be an informed bishop.  When he’d arrive at the parish, he’d spill forth all the up-to-date, cutting edge theology that he had just heard upon the people, whose response was a passive eyes-rolled-back-in-their sockets.  Whatever he was doing wasn’t working.

One day as the bishop was driving down a rural road, he came across a box turtle, which was slowly crossing the road.  He stopped and safely put the turtle out of his harms way.  He continued to visit parishes,  listen to the CDs, but he kept an eye out for turtles, which were plentiful and  needed rescuing; so, he got in the practice of stopping and picking them up if they needed help.

After a while he stopped listening to the religious CDs because he wasn’t good at multi-tasking.  He’d roll down the windows, especially in late Spring and early Summer, and take in the sounds and smells.  He found that he was becoming more relaxed, less task-oriented, and very attentive to his surroundings.  When he arrived at the parish, he was very present to the parishioners, which is what they  needed rather than a summary of the latest theology.

Which gets us to  today’s gospel, in which   two blind men cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on us” (Mt 9:27b).  They probably sensed that Jesus had compassion for them—that he felt sorrow for their pain.  But, what they needed was mercy—they desperately needed their suffering removed.  Then Jesus gets right in their face and asks, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (v. 28a).  Jesus put them to the test, not to rebuff them, but to call them to a deeper level of faith.  When they affirmed their hope that he could, they were healed, both physically and spiritually.

It’s the same with our traveling bishop.  In “looking out for turtles,” the bishop rediscovered the compassion and mercy that is the heart of ministry.  What’s true for the bishop is true for us as Catholic educators.  As members of the Body of Christ, as the People of God, we are called to love God for his own sake.  And, we’re called to love others, including our students and colleagues,  for the sake of God.  Without love and mercy, even the most extraordinary pedagogical skills are in vain.  Without love and mercy, we’re just a noisy gong.  Even if we teach well, but, if we don’t have love, we’re not serving God or the Church.

A former teacher once described our school as St. Frantic.  Even with the new block schedule, we can get really busy, with final exams looming and our students getting very anxious, especially our freshmen!   In so doing, we can become blind to the people who mean the most to us.  We can forget why we’ve been called to the wonderful ministry of teaching and related charisms.  We can become blind to our sisters in faith who grace our classrooms.  We can get so preoccupied with class minutes, grading papers, projects, etc. that we lose sight of the pursuits that bring us joy.  When we get overwhelmed by the demands placed upon us, we stop seeing the “turtles on our road”.

Jesus comes to restore our “sight,” which enables us to realize that God is present in our midst and that our educational ministry is an opportunity to grow in faith, to sanctify our lives,  and to be healed by his sacred presence.

So,  let’s keep an eye out for turtles and Troubies!