A King had a male servant who, in all circumstances, always said to him; My king, do not be discouraged because everything God does is perfect, no mistakes.
One day, they went hunting, and a wild animal attacked the king; the servant managed to kill the animal but couldn’t prevent his majesty from losing a finger. Furious and without showing gratitude, the King said; if God were good, I would not have been attacked and lost one finger.
The servant replied, ‘despite all these things, I can only tell you that God is good and everything He does is perfect, He is never wrong.’ Outraged by the response, the king ordered the arrest of his servant. While being taken to prison, he told the king again that God is Good & Perfect. Another day, the king was left alone for another hunt and was captured by savages who used human beings for sacrifice.
On the altar, the savages found out that the king didn’t have one finger in place; he was released because he was considered not “complete” to be offered to the gods. On his return to the palace, he ordered the release of his servant and said; My friend, God was really good to me. I was almost killed, but I was let go for lack of a single finger.
But I have a question; If God is so good, why did He allow me to imprison you? His servant replied; My king, if I had not been put in prison, I would have gone with you and been sacrificed because I have no missing finger.
Finding the good in a good situation is easy, but how difficult is it to find the good in what is perceived as a bad situation?
These days, it is quite common to hear someone say, “I’m so blessed,” which is then followed by an explanation of why. “I’m so blessed because I have good health.” “I’m so blessed because I have a good job and nice things.” “I’m so blessed because ____.” But does this mean that the person with bad health is unemployed or ____ is not blessed? Or is it, when they think of the word “blessed,” we…
Have you ever seen the movie The Princess Bride? Vizzini is one of the semi-evil characters who occasionally comes up with excellent advice. For example, I can think of one world leader who could have benefitted from: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but no one asked. Anyhow, Vizzini keeps using the word “inconceivable.” After the umpteenth, Inigo Montoya—he’s looking for the man with six fingers—says to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” We keep using the word blessed, but I don’t think it means what we think it means because so often, when we say we are blessed, it is the equivalent of saying, “I’m so lucky.” However, being blessed and being lucky are two very separate things. To understand the true meaning of blessed, we must look for its use in Holy Scripture.
Consider the Israelites. Following the Exodus from Egypt, the Lord spoke to Moses as the people wandered in the desert. On one occasion, the Lord told Moses to speak to the people and say, “If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” Put another way, “If you obey my commandments, you will be blessed, for I will set you apart from all the other nations of the earth. And in setting you apart, you will serve my purposes.” We hear it again in Deuteronomy, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” So, to be blessed is to be set apart for God’s purposes. To say you are blessed because you have good health is only half the equation. If you are blessed because you have good health, what is God’s purpose for your good health? If you are blessed because you have an excellent job with a good income, what is God’s purpose for blessing you with these things? But it doesn’t stop there because once you are set apart and discern God’s purpose, you must respond—you must fulfill the purpose.
The idea of being blessed applies to individuals, but it also applies to things. Think of the bread and the wine at the Eucharist. During the Eucharistic prayer, we bless/consecrate the bread and the wine for God’s purpose, that is, to become the Body and Blood of His Son so that we, God’s children, might have food for our souls.
Yet, bread and wine, a good job, and good health are easily identified as blessings, and if we discern God’s purposes, we can use these blessings for Him, but what about those things that are not so easily identified as blessings? Take, for example, the flea. Is there ever a time when a flea is a blessing?
We just finished reading and discussing The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom in our Saints Book Club. She wrote about the life she and her family had before the Nazi invasion of Holland. She, her father, and her sister, Betsie, would eventually be arrested and placed in concentration camps. Upon their arrival at Ravensbruck, she and her sister were placed in temporary quarters, and the beds were covered with straw. They crawled into the bunks and were immediately covered in lice. It was miserable, but all the women came together, cut each other’s hair, and endured. After a time, they were moved into permanent quarters.
There, the sleeping arrangements were similar. Three layers of cots shoved closely together and covered in straw. Corrie and her sister were assigned to bunks on the second tier. She writes, “Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg. ‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them.’”
They scrambled out, and just as Corrie seemed about to lose it, Betsie began to pray. She remembers a passage of Scripture they had read earlier in the day, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
Praying, Betsie says, “Thank you for the fleas and for—.”
“The fleas!” Writes Corrie. This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” Betsie quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
Corrie wrote, “And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
While housed in this particular barrack, what they found to be so interesting, was the fact that neither the guards nor the supervisors entered the barracks to harass or even oversee them, which allowed them the opportunity to begin to hold prayer meetings inside the barracks with no interference. Soon they were ministering to so many women. Attitudes changed. What had been a place of total despair and self-reliance, and distrust turned into a place of hope, community, and faith. Why? Fleas. You see, Betsie later learned that the guards and the prisoner supervisors knew very well that the building was swarming with fleas, and no matter the need, they refused to put a foot inside for fear of being infected themselves.
Today in our Gospel, we read, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn… the meek… those who hunger… the merciful… and more.” Betsie would have added, “Blessed are the fleas, for they shall bite the guards and keep them away.”
The lowly flea was created by God and blessed by God, and even it served God’s purpose.
We may not always easily see how we are blessed when we mourn, are meek, or are hungry. Still, if we will pray through those circumstances and discern, we begin to understand how all these things can serve God. When we mourn, we know the pain of so many and can seek to find ways to alleviate some of that pain. When we are meek, we can discern the position of many who are dispossessed and look for opportunities to love. When we are hungry, not only can we begin to understand those who go without food, but we can also translate that into those who hunger for God and then provide ways to feed both body and soul.
Are you blessed? As Betsie would remind us, we are blessed in all circumstances—the pleasant and the unpleasant—so let us discover how we might use all those blessings for God’s purposes.
Let us pray:
O Lord our God, Your grace has achieved for us all that You had spoken and promised. Grant us access to the place of Your peace. For You are our Lives, You are our Consoler, You are our life Remedy, You are our Standard of Victory. Blessed are we, O Lord, because we have known You! Blessed are we, because we have believed in You! Blessed are we, because we bear Your wounds and the sign of Your Blood on our countenances! Blessed are we, because You are our great hope! Blessed are we, because You are our God forever! Amen.