Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Optional Memorial)
Grieved at their hardness of heart . . . (Mark 3:5)
During Mass one Sunday morning, a teenager chatted with the man seated next to him. The teen had been invited by a friend, and he clearly hadn’t been to church very often. His speech was peppered with bad language. His mannerisms seemed rough. And he kept speaking at the worst possible times. Offended by the boy’s actions, the man thought, “Doesn’t he know this is a church?”
But something happened that morning at Mass that led this teenager to have a dramatic encounter with the Lord. He began reading the Scriptures and attending Mass regularly. He met with the pastor and joined the parish. Soon he became an altar server and began singing in the youth choir. When the man saw all of this, he felt ashamed for judging this misfit teen harshly.
There’s a similar story in today’s Gospel from Mark. During a synagogue liturgy, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. But instead of rejoicing at the man’s restoration, some of the leaders chafed because Jesus had done it on the Sabbath. Like the first man, they missed the deeper meaning of the Sabbath—that it was a gift from the Lord, a time for healing and refreshment. But unlike the first man, their hard hearts didn’t soften. On the contrary, Mark tells us that they began plotting Jesus’ death.
So why did the religious leaders get angrier, while the man at Mass had a change of heart? The difference was that the first man softened his heart when he saw how God had worked in the boy’s life. All the Jewish leaders could see was an infraction of the Law; they couldn’t look behind the infraction to see the evidence of God’s mercy and love.
How do you react when someone rubs you the wrong way? How welcoming are you to the “misfits” in your church? Like the man at Mass and the religious leaders in Mark, you have a choice. You can become annoyed at appearances, or you can look beyond appearances to see a heart being changed. Try seeing things from God’s perspective. Maybe that person is nearer to him than you think! The Lord might just use your welcoming, kind words as his instrument of healing.
“Jesus, take the callous places in my heart and soften them. Fill me with your compassion.”
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17
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