Stories

29th Sunday Cycle C
Anecdote 1) Prayer Power: Some years ago Guideposts magazine printed a remarkable story. It was about a young high school teacher named Mary. She wanted so much to succeed as a teacher. But a student named Bill was turning her into a nervous wreck. One morning, before school began, Mary was sitting at her classroom desk writing something in shorthand. Suddenly Bill appeared at the door. “What are you writing?” he asked as he approached her desk, “I’m writing a prayer to God,” she said, “Can God read shorthand?” he joked. “He can do anything,” said Mary, “even answer this prayer.” Then she tucked the prayer inside her Bible and turned to write on the chalkboard. As she did, Bill slipped the prayer from her Bible into his typing book. Twenty year later Bill was going through a box of his belongings that his mother had stored in her attic. He came across his old typing book. Picking it up, he began to thumb through it. Lo and behold, he found the shorthand prayer. It was yellow and faded with age. Bill stared at the jottings on the paper and wondered what they said. He took the prayer and put it in his wallet. When he got to his office, he gave the prayer to his secretary to decipher. She read it and blushed. “It’s rather personal,” she said. “I’ll type it out and put it on your desk when I leave tonight.”That night Bill read the prayer. It said: “Dear God, don’t let me fail this job. I can’t handle my class with Bill upsetting it. Touch his heart. He’s someone who can become either very good or very evil.”The final sentence bit Bill like a hammer. Only hours before, he was contemplating making a decision that would commit him to a life of evil. During the next week Bill took the prayer out several times to read it. To make a long story short, that prayer caused Bill to change his mind about doing what he was contemplating. Weeks later Bill located his old teacher and told her how her prayer had changed his life.-
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Anecdote 2) Film -Heartland: The movie Heartland dramatizes the story of rugged prairie life in the early 1900’s. A widow named Elinore Randall answers an ad to become a housekeeper for Clyde Stewart, a taciturn cattle homesteader in Burntfork, Wyoming. After a rocky beginning, their relationship smoothes out and they eventually get married, partly out of economic convenience and partly out of deep human needs. Together they heroically endure the hardships of a stubborn soil that yields little food, freezing winter winds that decimate their herd and the death of their new born little boy. In the climax of the story, Clyde Stewart has given up on the cattle ranch and begins to pack their belongings. But Elinore won’t let him quit. She pleads and bargains with him not to abandon their dream. Her tenacity triumphs when a calf is born, a sign of a new beginning, new life and new hope. Clyde finally agrees to stay and give the ranch one more try. Elinore’s persistence and faith are comparable to the widow’s in today’s parable. The widow kept coming to the judge for her rights and eventually wore him out. Jesus uses her as an example of praying always and not losing heart. –Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
Anecdote 3) Never give up! Years ago in Illionis, a young man with six months’ schooling to his credit ran for an office in the legislature. As might have been expected, he was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed at that, too, and spent the next 17 years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady and became engaged – and she died. He had a nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office, but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated for Senator. He ran for office once more and was elected. The man’s name was Abraham Lincoln. -And it took Winston Churchill three years to get through the eighth grade, because he couldn’t pass English – of all things! Ironically, he was asked many years later to give the commencement address at Oxford University. His now famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never give up!” –Harold Buetow in ‘God Still Speaks! Listen’
Anecdote 4) He is my Father….: A group of botanists were exploring almost inaccessible regions in search of new species of flowers. One day they spied, through binoculars, a flower of great rarity and beauty. It lay in a deep ravine, with perpendicular cliffs on both sides. To reach it someone would have to be lowered over the sheer precipice by means of a rope, and it was certainly a very dangerous undertaking. Approaching a young lad nearby, who was watching them with great curiosity, they said, ‘We’ll give you twenty dollars if you let us lower you down below, to obtain that beautiful flower for us.’ The young lad took a look down into the ravine, and then he said ‘Wait here; I’ll be back’. When he returned, he was accompanied by an older man. Approaching one of the botanists, he said, ‘I’ll go over the cliff, and get that flower for you, if this man holds the rope. He’s my father.’ Faith is a direct response to love. -Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth!’

Anecdote 5) Never giving up! His name is Bruce MacDonald. He has never married and is earnestly looking for a wife. At sixty-one years of age he protests that he is not a confirmed bachelor but a prospective husband. In a television interview he admitted that time was running out. From the interview it became clear that our hero had developed through the years a dry sense of humour. He said that nobody seems to want the serious attention of a sixty-one year old whose declared pastime is playing the bagpipes! In an effort to speed his chances of success, Mr. MacDonald has taken to going on “Singles Weekends”. His success so far has been the exchange of addresses with promises to keep in contact. Nobody ever has. Still, Mr. McDonald lives in the belief that his persistence will be rewarded. -When people are persistent but seem to have little chance, we wonder why they bother. Persistence is often regarded in our society not as a virtue but as a vice: ‘He’s got a nerve asking again when he’s been refused time and time again.” Some people refuse to take no for an answer and hope that their persistence will pay off in the long run. Sometimes it does.-‘Denis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Word’
Anecdote 6) Tenacity: A little known man who exemplified that is John Harrison. Until the eighteen century sailors navigated by following parallels of latitude and roughly estimating distance travelled east or west. Ships routinely missed their destinations. In 1714, England’s Parliament offered a large reward to anyone who provided a “practicable and useful” means of determining longitude. Most astronomers believed the answers lay in the sky, but Harrison, a clock maker, imagined a mechanical solution – a clock that would keep precise time at sea. By knowing the exact times at the Greenwich meridian and at a ship’s position, one could find longitude by calculating the time difference. However, most scientists, including Isaac Newton, discounted Harrison’s idea. Harrison persisted. He spent decades – decades! – of his brilliant life through scepticism and ridicule, working on a timepiece. Even after completing his timepiece, an instrument we now call a chronometer, in 1759, he underwent a long series of unfair trials and demonstrations. Ultimately he triumphed. -Harold Buetow in ‘God Still Speaks! Listen’

Anecdote 7) Gideon’s experiment with prayer: Many years ago a man named Galton suggested that the prayer of petition should be put to the test. One-half of England, he said, should pray for rain and then compare the rainfall with the other half who did not pray for rain. He was not, in fact, the first believer with a flair for experimentation. In the Book of Judges, Gideon said to God, “If you really mean to deliver Israel by my hand, as you have declared, see now, I spread out a fleece. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is left dry, then I shall know.” Gideon had the mind of a true experimenter. The following night he turned his experiment back to front to test God a second time. He prayed, “Do not be angry with me if I speak once again…. Let the fleece alone be dry, and let there be dew on the ground all around it” (Jdg 6:36-40). Prayer isn’t just a way of getting what we want, but some people go to the opposite extreme of never asking God for anything (while having no problem with the prayer of praise, thanks, and so on). If it makes sense to thank God for something, it must make sense to ask God for it and to persevere in that prayer as Jesus proposes in today’s gospel. –(Bible Diary 2004)
Anecdote 8) So where was God all this time?” There is a story which illustrates how we often confuse God’s timing with our own. A rural newspaper had been running a series of articles on the value of church attendance in its Sunday Religion column. One day, the editor received a letter which read: “Print this if you dare. I am trying an experiment. I have a field of corn which I ploughed on Sunday. I planted it on Sunday. I did all the cultivating on Sunday. I gathered the harvest on Sunday and hauled it to my barn on Sunday. I find that my harvest this October is just as great as any of my neighbours who went to church on Sunday. So where was God all this time?” The editor printed the letter, but added his reply at the bottom: “Your mistake lies in thinking that God always settles his accounts in October.” We who believe in the power of prayer often wrongly think that our persevering prayers will force God to act when and how we want Him to act, according to our timetable and according to our desire. -Rev. R. J. Fairchild

Anecdote 9) One-woman army against injustice: Jon Hassler, in his novel A Green Journey, presents the quite traditional, yet far from conventional, character, Miss McGee. Miss McGee had been the sixth grade teacher at St. Isidore’s School in Staggerford, Minnesota forever and was not one who would allow an injustice to go unchallenged, particularly when it was inflicted by the powerful against the powerless. In the story, Miss McGee brings the unmarried, pregnant teenager Janet Raft, one of her former students, into her home on Christmas Eve because her family lived out in the county, too far away from the hospital, and Christmas time was the time of winter storms. Janet was apprehensive and ill-at-ease as she arrived at the door of her former teacher, who, she knew, would not approve of the behaviour that had gotten her into this condition. But Miss McGee gave Janet a warm welcome and took her for the Christmas Midnight Mass. As expected, Janet went into labour just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Her child, Stephen Raft, was born early on the morning of January 1, three hours ahead of Daniel Buckingham III, son of the owner of the local furniture store. But instead of Janet’s son, Stephen, the rich man’s son, Daniel, was named in the newspaper as the winner of the supply of gifts presented by the local Chamber of Commerce to the first New Year’s baby. Miss McGee was outraged. She brought a reluctant Janet over to the furniture store where she confronted its rich owner about the “mistake” and managed to have the various merchants provide a duplicate set of gifts for the genuine New Year’s baby. Just like the widow of today’s gospel, this small, white-haired teacher in her sixties fought relentlessly for justice with an unbending sense of right and wrong.

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