March 1, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Like Jesus, in all matters, remember to respond in love

Patti LambLast week, I had lunch with some girlfriends and one of them told us a story about her brother-in-law.

He works the night shift, and often walks to a nearby convenience store on his “lunch” break. He saw someone exiting the store and paused to hold the door. It turned out to be a thief robbing the place. Upon his exit, the thief lodged the butt of his concealed weapon into her brother-in-law’s rib cage, resulting in two bruised ribs.

Another girlfriend could relate and chimed in with her story. The prior summer, she saw her elderly neighbor having a difficult time clearing some brush in his back yard. She couldn’t tolerate watching the neighbor’s struggle, and insisted on intervening and clearing the brush herself. My girlfriend got the worst case of poison ivy imaginable.

I brought up the time I baby-sat for my friend’s son when she had a critical work meeting, but her regular sitter got sick. Daily, I am reminded of her son’s visit by the permanent marker doodles he left on our living room couch.

I keep hearing it. “No good deed goes unpunished.” So why do we keep reaching out to help others when so many times it only ends badly? Sticking our necks out for others often makes us look nothing but foolish.

I am constantly reminded, however, that God looks to the heart. He sees our genuine intentions, even when things go awry—which happens more often than not.

I think we have to proceed remembering that God is all-knowing. His mind is infinite, but our frail, human minds are limited. And our human condition limits our ability to conceive of the power of good—and of love—to win. We keep trying to rationalize and apply reason. But reason doesn’t always apply.

Our priest, Father Glenn O’Connor, explained it well during a recent homily. He said that Jesus was a king, but when he came on the scene, he didn’t have the traditional qualities of royalty. Jesus’ presence was not one of power and glory. He put no stock in gold. He never wore a crown—except one constructed from thorns. And the message Jesus preached was contradictory to the ways of the world: In all matters, respond with love.

I think about the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us on Good Friday. He never did anything wrong, and he certainly never did anything worthy of capital punishment. He took upon himself the sins of the world to absolve humanity, and humanity nailed him to a cross. Perhaps it’s always been the case that no good deed goes unpunished.

When we are repeatedly reminded that good is the underdog, it’s easy to give up and to conform to the ways of the world. But Easter’s message whispers to us: “The world’s standards are not the same as God’s standards. Keep working for good.”

Last month, I encountered some gray days and began to subscribe to the world’s standards. I grew tired of seeing good intentions get penalized. A friend of mine gave me a CD containing a song by Martina McBride.

In the refrain, she sings, “God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good. And when I pray, it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway.”

My friend reminded me to believe in good, even when it seems like a lost cause. When no good deed goes unpunished, do it anyway. After all, Jesus did.

And that’s why we’ll soon be celebrating the miracle of Easter.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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