May 19, 2022
by George Butterfield
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 288

Acts 15:7-21
Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 10
John 15:9-11

Celebrating Easter Home

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

An Easter Blessing

Easter Joy in Everyday Life

Proclaim God s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

To whom? All you lands - the nations - all peoples - the nations - the peoples. Okay, I get it. We are to sing to the Lord a new song and bless his name. We minister to God. After that, we turn to all the nations and announce his salvation and tell his glory. We cannot minister to people until we have gazed upon the beauty and majesty of the Lord. Ministry to God precedes ministry to people.

But all people? Even Bill? I don’t remember his name, so I’ll just call him Bill. Before I became Catholic, I attended Mass most mornings before heading to my office. It was a small, quiet service with a few of the many parishioners. Then Bill appeared. He was homeless and lived in his truck with his German Shepherd. Bill was as welcome as I was but he was clearly different. First, he was loud. Perhaps it was because he had lived by himself for so long or it could have just come to him naturally. My oldest son recently came to live with us after being gone for many years. For most of that time he lived in a tent or a homeless shelter. He is loud. You can hearing him walking up the steps from a mile away. He talks loudly, too. Some of this he gets naturally (I won’t say who he got this from, ahem). But I have had to remind him that his mother and younger brother can’t take noise in the morning so we have to refrain from talking and try to walk the steps more slowly, so that we don’t wake them up.

Bill obviously had some mental challenges, too. At one Sunday Mass he received communion and then turned around and started directing traffic for those behind him in the communion line. You go that way - you go this way. Disruptive might be an under statement. The pastor felt the need to talk to him. He was a bit belligerent and pushed the pastor. Eventually the parishioners couldn’t take him any more and he was banished from the property. I only went to weekday Masses, so I heard about what had happened but wasn’t there enough to see what all had gone on. As the weeks came and went, I forgot about Bill.

ThenĀ  one evening I attended an ecumenical prayer service. My father had taught me that, if you are not there 20 minutes early, you are late. However, that evening I arrived just before the service was to begin and found only one pew that I could squeeze into. As I sat down, I noticed the person who was directly behind me; it was Bill. This could get interesting, I thought. During the service we prayed, sang songs, and heard some brief reflections on the scriptures. I’m not sure that Bill heard a word of what was being said or sung. The whole time he was on his knees (thus, his face was close to the back of my head) and the whole night he kept saying simply, “O God, I’m so sorry - I’m so sorry. Forgive me Lord, I’m so sorry.”

I never saw Bill again. I do not know where he went or what eventually happened to him. But I felt like that Pharisee who prayed something like, “God, I am so glad that I am not like other men, especially men like Bill.” I feel fairly certain that Bill went home justified that night. I went home with a radically changed perspective.

Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all peoples. Even Bill? Yes, even Bill, especially Bill, although I came to think that I needed to hear God’s word more than Bill.

May God have mercy on us all.

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