The Silver Window

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Once there lived a kind and generous man. Every morning he would wake up and look out his bedroom window and gaze on all the townspeople below, saying prayers for them and counting his many blessings. During the day he would perform good deeds to the people he saw below and when he came home he would go to his bed satisfied and smiling.

Now one of the town’s elders surprised him by leaving a large sum of money upon his death, in reward for his kindness. The man decided he would use all of this money to do good deeds and bless the beloved people he saw out his bedroom window each morning. First though, he decided to allow himself one indulgence: he had the edges of his favorite window adorned with pure silver.

Each morning, the man got up and went out to his bedroom window and looked down as was his custom and prayed for the people below, and resolved to do good deeds for them.  But each morning, he also looked at the silver adorning the outside of his window and thought, “How much beautiful would this window be, if I added a little more silver!”

Slowly, but surely, he began to spend less of his money on his fellow townsfolk and more adorning the edges of his favorite window. As the silver took up more and more of the window, he saw less and less of his fellow townspeople, so he thought of them less and prayed for them less. Until, at last, one morning the man woke up and looked into his silver window and all he saw was his own reflection.

This Jewish parable reminds us that the process of becoming completely self centered is a slow one that begins around the edges, but will eventually consume us if we let it. To follow Christ means to love others as we love ourselves. To serve him is to serve our neighbor. These things bring contentment and joy. Serving ourselves and loving ourselves brings darkness and despair. Perhaps the difference between heaven and hell is the difference between a window and a mirror.

Whoever has an ear to hear, let them hear…

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“Pray that I have clarity…”

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“When John Kavanaugh, the noted and famous ethicist, went to Calcutta, he was seeking Mother Teresa … and more. He went for three months to work at “the house of the dying” to find out how best he could spend the rest of his life.

When he met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she replied. He then uttered the request he had carried thousands of miles: “Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.”

“No,” Mother Teresa answered, “I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.

This account, taken from Brennan Manning’s classic book: “The Ragamuffin Gospel”, perfectly illustrates the true nature of faith. Faith is not about having clarity but having trust in the face of uncertainty. Human beings naturally seek clarity. It is not enough to know there is a plan for our lives, we want to know the plan. This desire for clarity can be the enemy of trust. As Proverbs 3:5 famously exhorts: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…