By Charles Van Winkle, CSC
Pleasing words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and invigorating to the bones.
After the patron had ordered a steak well done, the waiter served a steak so rare it was about to gallop off of the plate.
“Didn’t you hear me say ‘well done’?” demanded the patron.
“Oh thank you, sir, it’s so seldom I receive a compliment.”
Humorous, but sad. Too often we fail to compliment one another; to express gratitude, kindness and sensitivity to the innate worth of every person made to the image and likeness of God as is recorded in chapters 1 and 9 of Genesis.
We fail to consider that every individual is so dear to God, that if the worst sinner in the world were the only one who needed to be redeemed, the Word would have become Jesus Christ and suffered and died for that person; as Jesus will remind us at the last judgment that what we did or failed to do for the least of His sisters and brothers, we did or failed to do for Him.
At the Last Supper after Jesus had washed the feet of His Apostles, He reminded them that He did so even though He was Master and they the subjects. He had told them He had not come to be served but to serve, to be a ransom for many, and that as He had done, they should likewise do.
Everyone has a daily cross to carry; everyone is burdened with a heavy load. And notwithstanding the outward appearance of being okay, many are in deep depression, as confirmed by the growing rate of suicides even among those who have attained high notoriety and vast material wealth.
Someone once said to my dad, “Joe, I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something.” So many people are simply longing to be thought of and to be appreciated as members of the human race.
Accordingly, one of the most effective and necessary ministries of our time is for us to be sensitive to the needs and sensitivities of one another; to see how we can make life more worth living for others as well as for ourselves; to be especially resolute always to say “Please,” “Thank you,” “Well done,” “I am sorry,” “Please forgive me?”. Yes, even if the person who serves us is getting paid. The more radical the witness, the greater the potential to influence people in a positive manner. As St. Paul reminds us, when we return kindness for unkindness, it is like heaping burning coals on the person’s head. That is, the burning coals of kindness in response to the unkindness will more likely promote the response: “That person had every reason to hate me, but was patient and kind. Why can’t I be that way?”
Finally, since Jesus says that what we do for others we do for Him, we cannot outdo Jesus in generosity. And so the paradox that promotes JOY is Jesus first, Others second, and You third. In so living, not only will we increasingly promote and realize greater joy, but also the other Fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control—that enable us to be one with Jesus Christ, our very best Friend who is nice to you and me, and wants us to be nice to one another.