Each summer our Church runs a bazaar. It is a major fund-raiser and is quite elaborate. Those who attend, enjoy delicious foods, beverages, entertainment and a flea market that includes books and items that appeal to various interests. Exiting rides and games provide great fun for the children. The bazaar is truly a family event, drawing many patrons from the surrounding towns.
Recently the deacon of our parish spoke about this summer’s upcoming bazaar. He expressed how successful it has been in the past and how important it is to the ongoing financial needs of the Church. He credits that success to the many parishioners, families and friends, both inside and outside the Church, who have volunteered their time, talent and energy.
In his homily at that Mass the deacon then shared a personal experience with the parishioners that had taken place during a past Bazaar. While setting up on the first day of the four-day event, he was approached by a man who asked if there was anything he could do to help. The deacon, on seeing the man’s appearance-which was quite disheveled-told him that there was nothing for him to do today, but maybe tomorrow. The deacon assumed that the man would not be back. Well, the next day, the gentleman returned and sought out the deacon and asked the same, “Can I Help?” And again the deacon replied; “Nothing today, but maybe tomorrow.” With that the man left. The next day arrived and the deacon, while repairing a tent before the opening of that day’s festivities, heard a familiar voice behind him, “Can I help today?” Without turning, the deacon replied as he did in the first two encounters. But, then he turned to look at the man; and when he did, he saw tears streaming down the man’s face. And turning away, the man left. The deacon said that he was then seized by overwhelming guilt and shame.
After his story, he appealed to the parishioners to please volunteer for the upcoming bazaar. And assured them that, unlike that gentleman, all would be welcomed, if they so wished to help.
In defense of the good deacon, often we are cautious with those we don’t know. We are uncertain of others’ motives. And in today’s world it is understandable. The deacon had a responsibility to the Church for the reliability of the volunteers that he recruited. Yet I suppose that, as the man sadly walked away, the deacon may have wished he had given the man at least some time to prove himself, and had not so abruptly turned him aside.
“The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust him.” – Ernest Hemingway
Saint Peter denied Our Lord three times, as well. And he, too, bitterly regretted that he had succumbed to the fear and doubt which caused him to turn his back on Christ, as he ran and hid with his two companions; guilt and shame. Christ can make Himself known in any manner He wishes. Often he comes to us in those of meager means or under trial, giving us an opportunity to be Christ-like through charity. After all, He, Himself, was unceremoniously born into this world; not on it but beneath it, in a cave.
Christ never would ask us to blindly get involved, thereby putting us in harm’s way unknowingly. For He even warned His apostles: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” – Matthew 10:16
Although we may not have the opportunity to make amends to the individual offended because he/she cannot be located or if prudence determines that a direct apology may not benefit but, instead, bring further harm to the offended; then another means must be employed. Meaning, an amendment can be accomplished indirectly through the next charitable opportunity that arises.
When God provides the next opportunity to offer atoning charity, accept it with thanks. For God’s grace through charity is dispensed both ways. He who offers it is as blessed as he who receives it. Two characters are strengthened, as also are the souls to whom they belong. The one who first suffered the wrong and received no official apology, receives grace as well. The injustice he suffered was not wasted. For the wrong he suffered so influenced the conscience of the offender, that the offender sought to right that wrong in another.
The deacon, if he has not already made amends, will, in time, have that chance. Saint Peter received his opportunity. After escaping certain death in Rome, Peter meets Jesus on the road. Jesus, however, is heading toward Rome, while Peter is leaving. Peter asks Him: Domine, quo vadis? (“Lord,where are you going?”) Jesus replied: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter then turned around and re-entered Rome, where he would be put to death by crucifixion. He who once reneged on his oath to die with Christ, in denying Him, has now fulfilled the promise.
No injustice endured is ever in vain if another emerges all the better for it.