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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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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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