In his book, World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers, William Bausch tells this little-known fact about riding in a stagecoach in the Old West. The stagecoach had three kinds of tickets: first class, second class, and third class. If you had a first class ticket, you could remain seated the entire trip, no matter what happened. If the coach got stuck in the mud, had trouble going up a steep hill, or even lost one of its wheels, you could remain seated inside the coach.
If you had a second class ticket, you could remain seated until there was a problem. In that case, you had to get out of the coach until the problem was fixed. Your didn’t have to help fix the problem. In fact you could stand around and watch as others worked on it. But if you had a third class ticket and something went wrong, you had to get out of the stagecoach and help fix the problem. In other words, the problem became part of your responsibility. This meant you had to help push the coach up the hill, or out of the mud, or even help repair a broken wheel.
We might ask ourselves, on the stagecoach of life, what kind of ticket am I holding? A first class ticket? That means if there’s a problem, I don’t have to do anything about it. A second class ticket? That means I can stand around and watch while others work on life’s problems. Or a third class ticket? That means when something goes wrong on the journey of life, I try to help. I sense it is partly my responsibility to do something about what’s wrong.
I believe that Jesus bought his disciples (and that includes us!) third class tickets for the stagecoach of life. He makes this very clear in his unforgettable parable called “The Good Samaritan” (Lk. 10:29-37). Most of you probably know the story by heart. A certain Jew was on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was mugged by robbers. They stole his money, beat him, stripped him, and left him half dead. A priest happened by, saw the man lying on the side of the road, and crossed to the other side and went on his way. Then a Levite also chanced by and he did the same thing. But when a third traveler happened by, he was “moved with compassion at the sight.” His compassion is all the more remarkable, because the man is a Samaritan, a traditional “enemy” of the Jews. The Samaritan stops, bends down, cleanses the man’s wounds, bandages them, lifts him on his own animal, and takes him to a nearby inn. He pays the owner generously to care for the man until he returns, saying, “If you spend more than what I have given you, I will repay you on my way back.”
Wow! Talk about holding a third class ticket! That Samaritan saw a big problem–which in a way was not his responsibility. He didn’t know the victim. He wasn’t a doctor. And the victim was not even a Samaritan, one of his own people! Yet he put aside his own plans to stop and care for him. And he extends his care into the future. And, at the end of the story, Jesus adds, “Go and do likewise.” He holds up this Samaritan as a model for discipleship. We, his followers, must have a sense of responsibility for our personal problems, yes, but also for those that lie beyond our own life, our family, our local community, our own country. It’s as simple and as challenging as that!
Today we might want to reflect on our sense of responsibility. Begin by giving yourself credit for all you are already doing. (I’m guessing you are already a pretty responsible person and a person of faith. Why else would you be reading a blog subtitled: “Celebrating Everyday Spirituality”?) Take a few moments to list (even in your mind) some of the ways you show you are responsible for things and people beyond yourself. Count things like: getting out of bed in the morning… caring for your kids or grandkids… putting in an honest day’s work… praying for the needs of others… taking care of things you use… paying taxes… contributing to your parish… doing a favor for a neighbor… feeding the birds… staying informed about important issues…
Then we can reflect on those times we shirk our responsibilities. Those times we come up with all kinds of excuses not to help out when we could. Remember, the priest and Levite probably had some very good reasons not to stop and help. But, then again, the Samaritan probably had some good reasons not to stop and help too—but he did! What made the difference?
The old maxim says, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” We could add, there’s no such thing as a free ride either! As we journey through life, being attentive to the needs of others—even when it is inconvenient—is part of “our ticket” for following Jesus! Amen!
Who taught you responsibility? How did they teach you?
The pandemic has challenged our sense of responsibility for one another. In what ways have we met that challenge? In what ways have we fallen short?
Has anyone ever gone out of their way to help you—especially a stranger? How did that experience make you feel?
PS #1: Thank you for your prayers for our first Provincial Chapter as one SND-USA province. It was good to meet (or re-meet) so many SND’s from our four areas: Chardon, OH; Covington, KY; Thousand Oaks, CA; and Toledo, OH. Our meetings went well. We prayed together, played together, had some worthwhile discussions, voted on proposals, and elected 8 delegates to our General Chapter in Rome in September. Thank you for your prayerful support!
PS #2: On February 13 we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Sunflower Seeds.” I can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog that long! I plan to celebrate with you by giving away some of my books (and a few other surprises) to a few lucky readers. Details will be coming soon. Stay tuned… Meanwhile, I thank YOU for following “Sunflower Seeds.” If I didn’t have readers like you, I would have stopped writing this blog a long time ago!!!
I looked for a song based on Matthew 25, Jesus’ parable of the Last Judgment. Although I used this song once before, I’m using it again here because it fits so well with today’s theme. I couldn’t find a version with the lyrics, but the chorus is: I was hungry… thirsty… lonely and afraid… I was crying and no one heard me, I was dying and no one came. Make sure you listen to the whole song because it ends on a positive note: “I was hungry, and you fed me… I was lonely, and you called my name… I was crying and you heard me… I was dying when you came.” Here is “The Matthew Song” by Broadway.
Please share your thoughts, reactions, and additions below. We all love hearing from each another!