|Memorial of St. Barnabas
Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Do we confuse good deeds with great deeds and omit the good wanting to do only the great? One of the great temptations in scholarship is to want to write the great (shall I say greatest) article so passionately that one either thinks so much about it that it never gets started or one works on it so much it never gets finished. Do we want to be perfect so we fail to see when we are good? Do we want to act perfectly so defeat ourselves by never acting with simple goodness by focusing on yet another failed attempt at perfection?
The famed widow of Zarephath does a good dees – giving some food to a stranger. As a matter of fact she does a very good deed – she gives the last flour and oil and fuel that she has. She sees it as rather an inadequate deed but she does it. She does not set out a seven-course dinner for the prophet but gives all she has.
In all this the prophet Elijah assures her "do not be afraid." Out of generosity and sacrifice God produces abundance. Thus they lived for a year through the generosity of God and the trust of that woman.
Jesus gives us the same message – be people of good deeds. There's a hitch here. Our goodness, like the abundance of food, comes from God and not from us. Like lights, many small ones can glow more brightly than one large one. We should not fret that we did not feed all the poor today or make peace in India this evening. Nor should we plan great deeds for when we finally graduate from college but rather do good ones now, as now is when we need to increase the light, bit by bit.
Greet your neighbor and the stranger, pray in common, forgive each other, give to those who are in need, comfort those who mourn. Do it a bit at a time and never assume that if our jars are low or empty that we have nothing to offer.
When I write an article I begin with a prayer to ask for God's assistance, I rely on my many teachers, Native people and academic scholars, and the wisdom they have transferred to me. I also call in a proof reader and pass the paper to others in my field for their comments. I don't go it alone! So too, Jesus talks to US not just to ME in the gospel today. So it is a WE who do good deeds and allow good deeds to be done to us when we are in need. Just as scholarship is (or dare I say can be) a religious and communal endeavor so too is our faith.
And though we struggle with emptiness and doubt the jar will never
run dry. God will never forsake us.
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