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Bible Reflections View Comments

One Size Fits All?
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012
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A large shoe-manufacturing company, hoping to expand its market even further, sent a scout to tour the developing world. She returned enthusiastic about one mountaintop village. “There are no roads in the town. The paths are steep and rough and they
walk everywhere. They wear shoes made of tree bark and they all complain bitterly about them, but I don’t think they’ve ever so much as seen a sneaker. We can’t miss!”

Trusting this report, the company spent thousands on advertising in the town. There were full-color ads featuring their celebrity basketball player/spokesman in the tiny town newspaper; billboards were erected with their slogan, “Jump Higher!”They even arranged a town square show with a giant-screen television running a loop of the basketball playoffs in which their shoes had made such a decisive difference. All for nought: After a month, they hadn’t sold a single pair.

As the company packed up its resources in defeat, the newly unemployed market scout met with the village elders. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Why didn’t anyone want to buy
our shoes?” Apologetically, the elders answered, “Your shoe is for playing basketball; we need one for fetching water.”

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus, hoping to serve the needs of his closest disciples, leaves a huge crowd and its demands and needs on one shore, only to find them again on the other. He realizes that the crowd’s need is as great as that of his disciples, perhaps moreso.

A similar event has doubtless happened to us all. At our best moments, we try to fulfill our Christian vocation by imitating the saints: We resolve to help feed the hungry in some remote town, or perhaps we fill our schedule with volunteering at a soup kitchen, a crisis hotline, a parish bake sale. We leave the mundane concerns of our lives for more “glamorous” opportunities, only to find they await us again on that distant shore—we come
home to neglected family members, some unfinished household chores, a dog that needs to be walked.

Just as not every shoe fits every purpose, sanctity is unique in each human life. “Feeding the hungry” is one of the corporal works of mercy, but it has a different appearance in the work of a feeding center director, a cafeteria “lunch lady,” or an animal shelter volunteer.
Barring neighborhood pirates, it is still possible to “ransom the captive” by referring a friend to a substance abuse program, or a debt-counseling service. “Clothing the naked” can mean running a clothing drive, but it can also mean doing the laundry.

The Gospel is one-size-fits-all, but we must tailor its message to the circumstances of our lives and to those in our lives who need to hear it. It may be that we cannot convert a nation to Christ, but it may also be that only we can speak a word of encouragement to a lonely neighbor, a troubled teen, a family member with whom we’ve argued.

We have had the great fortune to find Christ in the middle of this ordinary life. Let’s find a way to share him with those he can touch in no other way.


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Elizabeth of Portugal: Elizabeth is usually depicted in royal garb with a dove or an olive branch. At her birth in 1271, her father, Pedro III, future king of Aragon, was reconciled with his father, James, the reigning monarch. This proved to be a portent of things to come. Under the healthful influences surrounding her early years, she quickly learned self-discipline and acquired a taste for spirituality. Thus fortunately prepared, she was able to meet the challenge when, at the age of 12, she was given in marriage to Denis, king of Portugal. She was able to establish for herself a pattern of life conducive to growth in God’s love, not merely through her exercises of piety, including daily Mass, but also through her exercise of charity, by which she was able to befriend and help pilgrims, strangers, the sick, the poor—in a word, all those whose need came to her notice. At the same time she remained devoted to her husband, whose infidelity to her was a scandal to the kingdom. 
<p>He, too, was the object of many of her peace endeavors. She long sought peace for him with God, and was finally rewarded when he gave up his life of sin. She repeatedly sought and effected peace between the king and their rebellious son, Alfonso, who thought that he was passed over to favor the king’s illegitimate children. She acted as peacemaker in the struggle between Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and his cousin James, who claimed the crown. And finally from Coimbra, where she had retired as a Franciscan tertiary to the monastery of the Poor Clares after the death of her husband, she set out and was able to bring about a lasting peace between her son Alfonso, now king of Portugal, and his son-in-law, the king of Castile.</p> American Catholic Blog In the name of the Father, use my mind to bring you honor, and of the Son, fill my heart to spread your word, and of the Holy Spirit, strengthen me to carry you out to all the world. Amen.

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