My son got stung by bees this week. I think it was the first time, but it turned out alright. I wasn’t there when it happened so in the car on the way home, I asked him how he handled it all. “I was scared mom. I cried. I may have screamed, but then others distracted me enough to forget how much it hurt.” As we started to drive, we slowly entered into silence. Then, I heard a little voice say meekly, “Mom, can you distract me again?” I smiled and reminded him that two rambunctious brothers would be joining us shortly to do the job.
When he greeted his brothers, he immediately went into the long tale of how he got stung by bees. And as the tale grew and grew, he started to talk about all the ways he could either befriend the bees next time or befriend a larger animal that would eliminate the bees for him. He even invited his brothers to help him in his plans. All the way home, they chattered back and forth, the pain long forgotten. I have to admit, I might have tuned out for a bit, but my mind snapped back to their conversation when one of my twins said “You know, God made those bees. God made everything.” Aw, I thought. That’s sweet. He continued, “God made all the toys too. So all our toys are really God’s toys.” His twin brother immediately shouted back, “No! The store made the toys. You go to the store with money and you get the toys and bring them home to play with.” I wanted to ask: “And where does that money for the toys come from, boys?” but I held my tongue.
This Sunday’s Gospel is an incredibly hard one for me to reflect on. I’ll just be honest. I went back and forth on it as I read about the readings and listened to podcasts explaining the readings. I thought about skipping a week but I’ve been so good about reflecting every week since Ash Wednesday that I kept working on it. I think, in the end, what I was hearing the most this week in these readings was a reminder to put God first over material things. I heard a reminder to put God first before money and wealth in particular. I love watching my boys learning about the world and God at the same time. They are starting to wrestle with what things are “of God” and what things are “of the world.” At the present time, they have been taught well by their teachers that everything comes from God. I can see, however, that as shiny toys and other fun things come into their life, God as the origin can sometimes fade away. I mean, it can fade away just as easily for me as an adult when I let the world get in the way.
One way, however, to combat letting material things get in the way of God in our lives is to harness community. The community that is willing to distract you so you don’t think about the painful bee stings. The community that is willing to travel down the imaginary road with you as you think about ways that the bees won’t hurt you in the future. The community that is willing to sit with you on the couch holding an ice pack to your leg to take a little of the world’s sting away.
It might be easy to envision being community to those closest to you, like your immediate family. The challenge in today’s Gospel, however, is reaching out to those who need you the most. The challenge in today’s Gospel is reaching out to those that that Jesus would reach out to if He was standing right next to us. The challenge is to live our lives as if Jesus actually is still standing right next to us waiting to welcome us all into the Kingdom.
May we all have, in the spirit of the Gospel, the opportunity to show love, acceptance, and community to someone who needs it during this week ahead.