Tuesday, 2/28/17 – The Gift of Self

Like many of you, I sometimes get on a television binge watching kick. Netflix is “evil” in this regard, making it soooooo easy to kill a few hours (days?) catching up on some nostalgic show that you remembered watching when you were still in the womb. While most of the time the shows are somewhat mindless, every now and again there is a gem that challenges and inspires. Such was a show I discovered a couple of weeks ago. It is called “The Kindness Diaries”. What first attracted me to the show as a skimmed Netflix titles was the picture of the host riding a bright yellow sidecar motorcycle. As you may have seen in my bio, I am a sucker for all things two wheels. So I thought I would give this show a spin.

The premise is that the host travels from Los Angeles and heads east to complete a circuit around the world. But here is the kicker, he brings NO MONEY!! He does have a three person crew documenting the trip but they cannot help him with anything. He relies on the kindness of complete strangers for food, housing, gas…everything!! Even warm clothes when he gets to Canada and forgets that it tends to get a bit nippy up there.

It was amazing how people would extend themselves for him expecting nothing in return. What they did not know, however, is that once per episode the crew chose someone truly in need, who extended themselves for this strange person, and gave them something that enriched their lives. One man in India, who rented and drove a rickshaw, received a new one so he did not have to pay rent on the one he was driving. Another family, living only under a piece of metal that served as a roof, received a new house.

So, who do you think were the most generous of the lot? The people he met in the south of France? The wealthy tourists in Lake Como, Italy? Hardly. Those who had the least, were the most generous with what they had. The most amazing story for me, was a man in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the USA. The host asked him for a place to stay and the man said he would but he didn’t have a home. He lived on the street. But, he said, “you are welcome to stay with me tonight”. That night the host of the program had a blanket and pillow on the stoop of a public building. And before he left to continue his journey, the homeless man presented HIM some new underwear for his trip. A homeless man who had next to nothing, gave a bit of what he had to a person he just met the day before. Can you imagine his shock when he was told that he was to receive free education to help him start a new career? Oh, and the best gift (at least it would be for me)? A ride in the sidecar.

It was this story I was thinking of when looking over today’s reading from Sirach. What are the things that the Lord wants from us in sacrifice? Burnt offerings? Putting on sackcloth and ashes? Not according to Sirach. He lists Peace, charity, refraining from evil and avoiding injustice. Does he mean we should travel around the world or take a political stance and demonstrate for justice? Well, maybe. But I think God is instructing us, through Sirach, to look at those things we can do every day for each other, and do so with joy in our hearts being thankful for the opportunity to share ourselves with the Christ that is in everyone we meet.

And what about all this animal sacrifice we see in the Old Testament and during the time of Christ, and still going on in some parts of the world? Images of the feast of Passover in Jerusalem haunt me sometimes. Maybe it’s because I am a veterinarian but descriptions of blood running through the streets and the sounds of thousands of lambs crying out as they are slaughtered within a single day are disturbing. Maybe it is the vet in me that somehow sees Christ’s sacrificing himself once for all as a way for God to say, “Enough already with the animal sacrifice (feel free to add a bit of Yiddish accent here). Can’t you think of another way to say thank you to me?” And we have a way. Thanks to the teaching of God through the incarnation of the word that is Christ. He was the model of love. He showed us how we should treat each other.

Lent begins tomorrow and part of the Lenten observation, is fasting. And fasting is obviously good. It teaches us strength of character and discipline in the small things so that we can better be able to be strong when life throws us a curve. But as Sirach says, sacrifice is not a bribe to the Lord but an opportunity to give of yourself. Isaiah tells us in chapter 58:5-12 what a good fast is. Share food with the hungry, clothe the naked and to not turn away from your own flesh and blood.

As we begin Lent 2017, give up something like chocolate  or candy, but also give up something more. Give up a bit of yourself to those that you meet each and every day that will surely need something that you have to offer. Happy Lent.

Today’s Reading:

SIR 35:1-12   Psalms 50: 5-6, 7-8, 14, 23      Mark 10: 28-31

 

About the Author

Hello! My name is John Ciribassi. I live in Carol Stream, IL in the USA. My wife Elise and I are parishioners at Corpus Christ Catholic Church. We have two adult daughters. One lives in Washington DC and the other attends Cornell University in New York state. My wife and I are both veterinarians, and my specialty is in animal behavior. I attended college and veterinary school in Illinois, where I met my wife who is from the Chicago area, and the rest is history! My hobbies include Racquetball, Off Road Motorcycle Riding, Hiking and Camping. I have never written reflections before and look forward to the opportunity to offer what little insight I have on the scriptures. But I have always felt that the scriptures can speak for themselves. My job is just to shine a little light on them for people who maybe don't have the time to look into the readings deeply. I hope you enjoy and find value in my writings. I certainly am grateful for the opportunity.

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34 Comments

  1. Well written! Good job on writing a reflection for the first time. I am sure you had to put in a lot of prayer and thought to come up with this write-up. Hope to see many more.

  2. seriously John, it doesn’t look like it’s for the first time. thanks for sharing and enlightening us. its a very good openning for Lent season.
    thank you and God Bless u and your family.

  3. Thanks alot for availing yourself, sure the Lord did use you to butress home today’s readings.

  4. John,
    Thank you for your writing. Sharing your story of “The Kindness Diaries” helped “humanize” the message for me this morning. Thank you again.

  5. Welcome John..We are already looking forward to your next reflection. Very inspirational and thoughtful. May God continue to bless you.

  6. Excellent piece on how to prepare for Lent…you join a group of other excellent writers who shine the light on the gospel and make it come alive and relevant for many…..

  7. Very refreshing – not that the others aren’t good – but as I contemplate my Lent you have inspired me to do the best thing. I promised a kid I would give him money for a mission trip I have also started a new paleo way of life that will require money. I have Fifty dollars that I was going to invest in me. I need to give it to the kid.

  8. Hello and welcome John…great start to reflections…indeed you have nicely summed up “Gift of self” well,we looking forward to more of your reflections.

  9. Thank you! You have beautifully clarified what I was thinking but couldn’t express. I have always been troubled by all the burnt offerings and sacrifices prevalent in the Old Testament. Surely God didn’t intend for us to wantonly kill for his pleasure! Sacrifice should be an offering of yourself, sharing what you have. That is the essence of love. On the eve of lent I am looking forward to further growing in love. Keep on writing! You did a great job!

  10. Dear John, welcome to the fold! Great debut piece. I’m sure you’re not alone among Christians experiencing some revulsion at the ancients and their animal sacrifices. In some ways though, sacrificing something of ourselves is more difficult than the old ways; it depends on our individual will to put into effect, while the old-style was a regular ritual.
    Looking forward to more to come.

  11. As you alter the behavior of animals for the better, so too, you have begun to alter the lives of humans for the better. Great to have you here.

  12. Welcome and thank you for being an example of giving generously and cheerfully, as you share your time and writing talent. Your phrase “give up a bit of yourself…” cheerfully and generously is my goal each day during Lent . Looking forward to your future reflections. God bless!

  13. It seems to me this is you are sharing your second reflection and I must say both are well done. I’ll be looking forward to more of your insights.

  14. You have clearly reached many minds and hearts with your reflection; thank you. Would that we all be mindful of reaching out to others each day, not just during Lent. Even a small gesture can have a huge impact.

  15. Hey John,

    Sacrifice, or in the case, animal sacrifice.

    Without going into a long debate on the subject, Jewish tradition had a prime unblemished male lamb to be used for the sacrifice according to God’s word. See Exodus 12:1-6. Also, you must remember that the sacrifice was not completed by the death of the lamb, but by the eating of the lamb at the Passover meal.
    Now switch to the New Testament and read Jn 6:60-69. Jesus is now the new Passover Lamb and meal. Jesus was an unblemished male in His prime (also note that none of His bones were broken). His sacrifice was fulfilling what was written.

    Of course there are books written on this subject that go into greater detail if you are interested.

    Mark

  16. Thank you John! I enjoyed the humor injected into your reflection. Lent is an important time for penance, which in it’s essence, involves some form of sacrifice from us for the good of others. Have a great start to the Lenten season. God bless.

  17. Touched by your reflection- May we all raise our Christian Character this Lent and incorporate the LOVE as a permanent piece of our faith. Looking forward to many more reflections from your heart, John- you are certainly using a talent from Him in a powerful way-thank you!

  18. Welcome John! Thank you for letting the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts and for sharing them with us. God bless!

  19. “My job is just to shine a little light on them for people who maybe don’t have the time to look into the readings deeply’ Thank you for availing yourself for this purpose. May the Lord continue to fill you up afresh to his greater glory, Amen.

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