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The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Fred Mislang SVD — Villa Cristo Rey, Christ the King Seminary, Quezon City

Monday 1st Week of Lent

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence and learning,” wrote Frederick Faber.

Leo Tolstoy, a great Russian writer, was accosted one day by a beggar asking for alms. Finding no coin in his pockets, he told the beggar, “Please don’t be angry with me, my brother, I have nothing with me.” The beggar delightfully replied, “You have given me more than I asked for, you called me a brother.”

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables tells the story of Jean Valjean who was imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children. After being set free, he could not find work because he was a convict. So he went to the home of a good bishop who gave him food and bed for the night.

Yielding to temptation, he ran away with the silverware of the good bishop but was caught by authorities. Asked if the goods belonged to him, the kind bishop said, “Why, I gave them to him. And Jean, you forgot the candlesticks.” Jean was so overwhelmed by the good bishop’s kindness. This experience led Jean to his conversion.

“When you do good to others,” says Benjamin Franklin, “you are best to yourself.” Actually, you are not only best to yourself but as the Good Book says, “You will inherit eternal life in God’s kingdom.” “Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you…For I was hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and in prison and you cared for me…” I say to you, “whatever you did to one of my least brothers and sisters, you did it for me.” (cf Matthew 25:31-46)

As we journey through life, how do we respond to the needs of poor people around us? Are we sensitive to the pitiful plight of our needy neighbors: the people who are perhaps hurting in some way in our village, or the office or workplace, or wherever we are?

Whenever we are confronted with people who are suffering and struggling somehow from illness or loneliness, poverty or senility, from depression or rejection, we have to decide whether to be a neighbor or not. What will happen to my neighbor if I don’t stop to help? Instead of asking, “who is my neighbor” let us rather ask ourselves the more appropriate and more vital question, “How can I be a good and kind neighbor”?

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