Did you hear about the man who provided $ 30,000 in his will for an elaborate funeral? When the funeral was over, a friend of the widow asked her,
"How much did this really cost?"
"Thirty thousand," the widow replied.
"No, way,” her friend said. "I mean, it was very nice, but $ 30,000?"
The widow answered. "The wake and funeral cost $7,000. I donated $500 to the church. The luncheon was another $500. The rest went for the memorial stone."
Her friend looked puzzled. "$22,000 for a memorial stone? My goodness, how big is it?!"
The widow replied, "Two and a half carats!"
I read the short form of the gospel today. The Lord is stressing that mere law-keeping is not enough. The spirit of the law, love in our hearts, is what he is calling us to. Justice and peace will follow.
I’d like to reflect a bit on our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I’ll begin with a story, which perhaps you may have read. It’s about Moses Mendelssohn, the grandfather of the well-known German composer, Felix Mendelssohn.
Moses Mendelssohn was far from handsome. He had a grotesque humpback.
One day he visited a merchant in Hamburg who had a very lovely daughter (named Fromet). Moses fell hopelessly in love with her. But the girl was repulsed by his misshapen appearance.
When it came time for him to leave, Moses gathered all his courage and went up to the young lady to speak to her. She was truly beautiful. But she caused him deep sadness by her refusal to even look at him. After several attempts at conversation, Moses shyly asked, “Do you believe marriages are made in heaven?”
“Yes,” she answered, looking down at the floor. “And do you?”
“Yes, I do,” he replied. “You see, in heaven at the birth of each boy, the Lord announces which girl he will marry. When I was born, my future bride was pointed out to me. Then the Lord added, “But your bride will be humpbacked.
Right then and there I called out, ‘Oh, Lord, a humpbacked woman would be a tragedy. Please, Lord, give me the hump and let her be beautiful.’”
The girl looked up into his eyes. She reached out and gave him her hand. Later she became his devoted wife.
This story reminded me of the words of the prophet Isaiah that recalls Jesus. Isaiah wrote, “It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured… He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins…. By his stripes we were healed.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:4-5) Indeed, Jesus took upon himself the infirmities of us all. We who were once humpbacked with selfishness and sin have been made beautiful by the sufferings and death of Christ.
Paul today reminds us that before Jesus came, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned upon anyone what God has prepared for those who love him.” When Jesus came, God’s heart was revealed. We learned that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that we could be with Him for all eternity. We can truly say that Jesus is God’s “Valentine”.
Christ’s death on the cross has made us beautiful. And now that we are healed, we have a mission. We are called upon to bestow our beauty upon the world around us by our kindness and compassion.
St. Francis told his followers, “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words.” It is mostly by example that we spread the gospel. Saint Pope John XXIII said, “It would scarcely be necessary to expound doctrine if our lives were radiant enough. If we behaved like true Christians, there would be no pagans.”
I read a story about a man riding a bus and holding on his lap a bunch of fresh flowers. Across the aisle was a young girl whose eyes came back again and again to the beautiful flowers. The time came for the man to get off. Suddenly he placed the flowers into the girl’s lap. He said, “I see how you love the flowers, and I think my wife would like for you to have them. I’ll tell her I gave them to you.”
The girl smiled as she accepted the flowers. Then she watched as the old man got off the bus and walked a short distance through the gates of a small cemetery.
Sharing… Only bread that is broken can be shared. Christ’s body was broken for us and his blood poured out for us on the cross. He shared his heart.
As his followers we are challenged to break out of our complacency, break out of our selfishness, and break open our hearts to share our gifts and blessings. Sharing includes the humble act of receiving.
Then the purpose of the law – union with Christ -- is fulfilled.
This is Valentine’s Day weekend, a time to remember that God loves us…and to say thanks.