Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The other day I watched the movie “Just Mercy.” The movie is based on the true story of Bryan Steven- son, a defense attorney, who works to free a death row prisoner wrongly condemned to die. In the movie, the character of Herbert “Herb” Richardson, has two striking lines that I would like to reflect with you this week. As he is getting ready to face his death sentence, he says to his attorney, “More people asked me how they can help me today than in my whole life.” Then he adds how strange his day had been by saying that “Most people don’t get to sit all day and think about being their last day alive.”
Looking at Mr. Richardson’s first line, it may strike home to us as sometimes we pass by people without stopping to acknowledge their presence. I certainly understand that this could be explained by the “New England culture”. I was raised in a similar culture where you greet people, but move on quickly. Maybe a more striking image is when a person stops to talk to each person. There was a TV show I watched a while back in which the main character stopped to talk to each employee in the organization he worked for. I apologize for not remembering the name of the show, but I do remember the scenes, in which a high -ranked person asked the names (and remembered them) of those people that “did not matter.” Quickly he was liked by everyone, because he treated everyone equally, from the meanest person to him to his closest friend. In other words, he treated everyone as they deserved, he treated them as persons. Some- times, we can easily cross paths with other people and smile, nod our heads, or say a quick “hey, how are you?” but only out of social etiquette, without caring much for the other person. I would like to invite you to engage other people, not out of “obligation”, but OUT OF LOVE. Whether a simple meaningful “good morning,” a gentle gesture at the grocery store, or stopping to ask how people are doing, let’s love as Christ has loved us (Jn 13:34). I understand that with Covid, this can be more challenging, but nonethe- less, we are still called to LOVE! Imagine what the early Church faced during the Roman persecutions in the first Century, where they were risking their lives serving one another. And it was by their testimony, that many people, saints and martyrs, were converted, but how they loved one another. Let’s ask the Richardson’s in the world how we can help them.
Moving on to the second sentence from Herb, it helps us to stop for a moment to reflect on our lives. In the 21 Century, everything is fast paced, quick, and immediate. When we were on lockdown, it seemed that life was in slow-motion. There were many “memes” and jokes in the internet how those two months seemed to be like years. All of a sudden, we realized how long our days are, when we are not “rushing through life”. The character in the movie spent his whole day thinking that he was living his last day. He reflected upon his life, both the good and the bad. This is an exercise that is good for all of us. Instead of focusing on the bad that we hear every day, and how life can be difficult, or even what is missing in our lives, let’s focus on what we have. Let’s remember the good that was given to us throughout our lives. The Jews always say that the wise man is the one who counts his blessings. Let’s stop now for a moment to think about our days. Let’s savor our days like a child who savors his favorite dessert. My mom would get upset with my brother and I, because we would eat our desserts with those mini coffee spoons. We would lick that tiny spoon 10 times, because we were enjoying it thoroughly. Even though we may be currently in a difficult moment of our lives, God always gives us something good. As you stop to think about your lives, appreciate the lives of those near you while we can. We don’t know if it will be our last day or the last time we see our family member. If you get together with your family in this Thanksgiving, take advantage to en- joy their presence. Reconcile with one another if necessary. Don’t let the individualistic society convince us that it’s all about us. “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)
We are all familiar with the famous line attributed to the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.” We are in this life TOGETHER, so let’s take care of one another. We are all our brother’s keeper! Let’s put the talents that God has given us to good use, lest, he should remove it from us. There are many people facing great needs, whether, financial, emotional, spir- itual, physical, among others. Let’s do what we can, to help them in their needs. No need to judge them, or worse, to condemn them, let’s LOVE ONE ANOTHER, AS HE HAS LOVED US! (Jn 13:34)
Father Steven Clemence