THE MEANING OF LIFE

I did not preach this week. Deacon Bob McCormick preached and shared the following inspiring story as he reflected on today’s Gospel about “the scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Here is the story he shared:

Alexander Papaderos was born on the island of Crete. During the Second World War Alexander’s hometown, Lividas, was destroyed by the Nazis and Alexander, still a child, was interned in a concentration camp.

After the war he was determined to be a force for peace and forgiveness. He studied theology in the Orthodox church and in 1965 opened an institute designed to promote peace and reconciliation. He would lecture on various topics regarding the Greek Culture.

At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Alexander Papaderos turned and made his ritual gesture to signal the conclusion of class and asked, “Are there any questions?”

Quiet swept over the room. The two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.  “No questions?” Dr. Papaderos said as he swept the room with his eyes. One student raised his hand. “Dr. Papaderos. what is the meaning of life?”

The usual laughter followed and people began to stir about getting ready to leave. Dr. Papaderos held UP his hand and stilled the room to perfect peace. He looked at the student who had asked the question for a long time to let the student know he didn’t appreciated him trying to make light of the situation.

“I will answer your question,” Dr. Papaderos said as everyone slowly slid back into their seats.

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this:

“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had wrecked in that place. I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the biggest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine – in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game, but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light – truth, understanding, knowledge – is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places in the hearts of men and women – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.”

And then he took the small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto the face of the student who had asked the question. The student in a quiet voice said, “thank you.”

We too are mere fragments of a mirror through which God’s light can shine as did the light of the Samaritan in today’s Gospel when we choose compassion and mercy rather than selfishness, which is always the message of the Eucharist we receive.

Don’t forget, “The Lord is with you!” Father Stan

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