In days of old there was a woman married to a most annoying man. He would complain about everything. He never did anything to help his wife. He expected to be waited on hand and foot all the time. (Do not shoot the messenger guys) Remember if you want to be treated like a king, she must be your queen. One day he went to the river with his mule. He complained so much that the mule got upset and kicked him till he died. At the funeral, when all the men walked by the wife, she shook her head in the affirmative. Every time the women walked by; she shook her head negatively. The priest asked the woman after seeing this: “Why are you shaking your head “yes” for men and “no” for women?” Her answer was: “The men would say how bad they felt for me, and I was saying, ‘Yes, I’ll be good.’ “When the women walked by, they were asking if the mule was for sale…”” (“Simple Truths for Marriage”)
The readings today seem filled with despair and disaster. The prophet Daniel tells of the day when the great Archangel, Michael, shall trumpet the time Jesus returns. And Jesus speaks of the time when the Son of Man shall come in glory and gather the elect into His kingdom.
While select might find these readings frightening, they would be wrong. For the readings are given to us not to incite fear but to invite reflection about how we live our lives today.
The fantasy mule-kicked husband is just like those people that only care about themselves and want it their way all the time or they are unhappy. And while the husband may be an extreme example, the numerous variations of his behavior find a home in many places and peoples in our world.
Today’s readings challenge us to look at life with a diverse set of lenses…not with self-centered glasses but with compassion and care for all. It calls us to see with new eyes. To see that the person who cuts us off in traffic might be a single parent who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a little precious moment with her children. The older couple who are walking excessively slowly through the store and who block our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report from the doctor she got back last week, this might be the last time that they will be able to go shopping together for a while or forever depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer.
To serve each other is not only to learn to think differently it also means taking the next step and moving outside of we: to lend a hand to those in need, a listening ear to those who are lonely and a compassionate and understanding heart to those who find themselves living on the fringes of society.
It is only when we learn to give ourselves in service to each other and to those in need that we gain a proper perspective on life and let Jesus Christ lead us so that we might, in the words of the prophet Daniel, “be wise and shine brightly…like the stars forever.”