Short Reflections

by Deacon Gene

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The Silversmith
The whittler
Hidden Mountains
IF is a meaningful word
Discoveries and answers
We change, by the moment

The Silversmith:

The reading from the book of the prophet Malachi 3:1-4, which we read as part of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 says, "He will sit refining and purifying [silver], and He will purify the sons of Levi."

That caught my attention and reminded me of a story that I heard or read many years ago. It was about a man who visited a silversmith with the idea of learning about the process of refining silver. Upon entering the smithy's shop, he asked if he could watch. When the silversmith agreed, he watched closely as the smithy held a piece of silver over the fire to heat it up. He explained that you need to hold the silver right in the middle of the fire where the flame is white hot to burn away all the impurities in the silver.

The silversmith sat right in front of the fire the whole time. When asked why he had to sit so close and how he knew when the silver was properly refined, he said, "You have to keep your eyes on the silver all the while it is in the fire, so you can pull it out just at the right moment. If the silver is left in the flames too long, it will be destroyed. And I know that the silver is properly refined when I can see my reflection in it like a mirror."

When we give that some more thought, we may come to realize that God is watching over us at every moment. During our lifetime, He allows us to be exposed to the fire, and if necessary will expose us to the intense fire of Purgatory to be sure that our soul is properly refined. But, immediately, when He can see His reflection in our soul, He allows us to enter His Heavenly Kingdom for all eternity.

The Whittler:

The story of the silversmith reminded me of a story which I included in my little book, "focus on the moment and TRUST in GOD'S LOVE.". It was a story that came from a totally different direction.

In the book, I relate that if I have an addiction, it is probably to western movies or movies about horses. Some time ago I was watching television episode of a series called “How the west was won.” The episode began with a cowboy helping a widow and her young son retrieve the ferry that they used to transport people across the river in front of their cabin. It had been cut loose by some unruly neighbors. It took some time for the cowboy and the woman to restore the ferry to service on the river. But in the meantime, the life of the young boy became the focus of the story in a couple of ways.

For me, the most interesting part of the movie was the young boy, who seemed to have a learning disability and was very carefully protected by his mother. Evidently, in a time before this episode occurred, the boy found a knife, which he knew his mother would take from him, so he hid it. Without her knowledge, he would go out into the woods, find a piece of wood, and begin to whittle. During the two-hour movie, the boy's mother was made aware of the fact that the boy had a knife, but did not realize that he had developed a special gift.

Toward the end of the story the cowboy had recovered and was ready to go on his way.
The young boy had grown to like the cowboy and wanted to give him something that he whittled. He went out into the woods, picked one of his carvings and wrapped it in a towel, hoping to have the cowboy put it in his saddle bag and leave. However, the cowboy decided to unwrap it and to his amazement he saw a carving of two horses standing on their back legs on a pedestal carved out of one piece of wood.

When his mother saw it, she asked the boy, "Where did you get that? The boy replied, "I whittled it."
Unable to immediately recognize the boy's special gift, the mother responded, "Did you do that with the knife you found?" He replied, "Yes!" Then, his mother was really amazed and she asked, "Well, how did you do that?" The boy replied, "Well, it's easy. You go out into the woods, find a piece of wood with two horses in it. Then you whittle it until the horses come out."

When I heard that , the story stopped for me, because, in my heart, I heard the Lord speak to me with some very profound words. "That is what I did for you". "When you were baptized, I put the image of my Son in you. Then, all through the years, I have whittled away at all the excesses in your life to let the image of my Son come out."

Even though it was late in the evening, I sat down and immediately wrote this down so that I wouldn’t forget it. But, the image was so imbedded in my mind that I have told this story to many people over the years and I seem to get the same reaction from all of them. WOW!

In my own mind, I thought, that's how God knows when we are ready for Heaven; when He is able to see the image of His Son in us. Whether He is able to bring that image out while we are in this world or if it requires us to spend some time in Purgatory, He will know when we are ready and He will welcome us into His eternal home.

Hidden Mountains:

The fog on the mountains this morning reminded me of this reflection which I wrote some time ago. So, I decided to make this my reflection for today.

One day, I went to the window of our seventh floor apartment. We live on the seventh floor of a senior living apartment complex which normally has a tremendous view of the mountains surrounding it. When I looked out the window, I noticed that it was so foggy that I could barely see the cars in the parking lot below. Then I looked straight ahead, where I usually see a whole group of mountains and I couldn't see anything.

As I stood there, looking into that haze, in my heart, I heard the Lord say: "Just because you can't see the mountains, does that mean they are not there anymore?" Of course, the answer was: "No, I know the mountains are still there." Again I heard: "Well, just because you can't see me, doesn't mean that I'm not here. I promised to be with you until the end of time and I am."

The more I thought about that the more I realized that the mystery of God's love and mercy is contained in that illustration. It also reminded me of the account in the Acts of the Apostles 1:9 where we read: "When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight." It does not say that he was taken to a far away place where he cannot be found.
But it requires faith and trust in God's word for us to recognize and acknowledge it.

Even though we do not see God when we hear His word proclaimed, it is still the Lord our God who speaks to us. Although we do not see Jesus physically present in the Eucharist, but disguised under the appearances of bread and wine, He is still there.

The next time the thought enters your mind, or you hear someone question whether God is with us in a certain situation. Please remember to say: "Of course, I believe that God is in our midst even though we don't see Him, and in His Mercy He will supply all our needs.

IF is a meaningful word

Yes, IF is a small word of only two letters, but it can carry with it significant implications. In many instances it implies doubt, uncertainty or a decision made with reservations.

That is what strikes me as I read this passage from the Book of Genesis, 28: 20.
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'IF God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, THEN the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.'"

Do we put that kind of conditions on our willingness to follow the Lord? When we put an IF in our prayer and a THEN before our response, we may be inadvertently doing just that. It seems to indicate a lack of trust in the fact that the Lord is leading and a hesitation to follow without assurances.

But, in the words of the Lord, in Isaiah 48:17, we read, "Thus says the LORD . . . : 'I am the LORD, your God, teaching you how to prevail, leading you on the way you should go.'" We also read in the gospel of John 14:5 that Thomas said to Jesus, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the WAY and the truth and the life."

Developing that trust and willingness to follow requires a change of heart.
Some time ago, I found a hymn composed by Dr. Bob Hurd which contains the words that emphasize the trust and commitment required by the Lord. It is entitled: "Transfigure us O Lord."
"Transfigure us, O Lord, transfigure us, O Lord. Break the chains that bind us; speak your healing word, and WHERE you lead we'll follow. Transfigure us, O Lord."

It is not a natter of IF the Lord is leading, or WHEN He will begin to lead us, but, realizing that He is leading us and being willing to say: "WHERE YOU LEAD I'LL FOLLOW" is our commitment to the Lord, to allow Him to strengthen our faith and solidify our trust in His loving guidance.

Discoveries and answers

In (2 Kings 22:8), we read that Hilkiah was a Hebrew priest at the time of King Josiah. He is known for finding a lost copy of the Book of the Law at the Temple in Jerusalem at the time that King Josiah commanded that the Temple be refurbished. For him and for the people of Israel this was a great find. It was also seen by King Josiah as a reprimand by the Lord for the way their forefathers disobeyed the Lord.

Although we may not make that kind of a discovery in our lifetime, we may from time to time make smaller discoveries which can make a difference in our life. The key to making discoveries in our life is to keep searching, and the key to finding the answers to the questions in our life, is to keep asking the questions.

In my own experience, sometimes you have to search for or ask the same question over and over again and when the answer comes, it may be in a way you just don't expect. That may help us to realize that God speaks to us when, where and how He chooses, and the answers we get, from God, are not always what we expect, but they are the right ones.

We change, by the moment, the hour and the day.

First of all, we have to realize that we are talking about physical, mental and spiritual changes.

I read recently that MAHATMA GANDHI once said, "Each night when I go to sleep, I die, and the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn."

I gave that a lot of thought and began to realize that it is true. When my head hits the pillow and I close my eyes and drift off to sleep, everything that happened during that previous day is history. Everything I said . . . has been said, and everything I neglected to say . . . was not said. There were things I achieved and some at which I failed. There were things I bought or things I sold. There were good deeds I performed and mistakes I made.

When I arise in the morning, it is a new day, with new challenges, new opportunities and a new me.
The person who starts this day was changed by the events of yesterday. Hopefully it was a day of growth and improvement. Hopefully it was also a day of giving and receiving. It is by giving of ourselves to others that we really receive. When we give of our time, our talent or our treasure to make someone smile, when we make someone feel appreciated or help them accomplish something in their life, is when we really feel alive and well ourselves. Doing things that come from the heart always causes us to be overwhelmed by what we receive in return.

A thought to consider at this time is that I can't store up the graces I received yesterday, and I can't borrow from what I will receive tomorrow. But I can take full advantage of the grace of the present. The benefit I receive from the present grace prepares me to do my best with the next moment God is willing to give me.

Remember what Jesus said, as we read in the gospel of Matthew 6:31-34: "So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of Go]] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

May this day be one of giving and receiving and one in which we respond to the grace of each moment to the best of our ability, trusting that if we do our best, God will do the rest.

© 2004- 2024 Gene P. Neral