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One Size Fits All?
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012
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A large shoe-manufacturing company, hoping to expand its market even further, sent a scout to tour the developing world. She returned enthusiastic about one mountaintop village. “There are no roads in the town. The paths are steep and rough and they
walk everywhere. They wear shoes made of tree bark and they all complain bitterly about them, but I don’t think they’ve ever so much as seen a sneaker. We can’t miss!”

Trusting this report, the company spent thousands on advertising in the town. There were full-color ads featuring their celebrity basketball player/spokesman in the tiny town newspaper; billboards were erected with their slogan, “Jump Higher!”They even arranged a town square show with a giant-screen television running a loop of the basketball playoffs in which their shoes had made such a decisive difference. All for nought: After a month, they hadn’t sold a single pair.

As the company packed up its resources in defeat, the newly unemployed market scout met with the village elders. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Why didn’t anyone want to buy
our shoes?” Apologetically, the elders answered, “Your shoe is for playing basketball; we need one for fetching water.”

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus, hoping to serve the needs of his closest disciples, leaves a huge crowd and its demands and needs on one shore, only to find them again on the other. He realizes that the crowd’s need is as great as that of his disciples, perhaps moreso.

A similar event has doubtless happened to us all. At our best moments, we try to fulfill our Christian vocation by imitating the saints: We resolve to help feed the hungry in some remote town, or perhaps we fill our schedule with volunteering at a soup kitchen, a crisis hotline, a parish bake sale. We leave the mundane concerns of our lives for more “glamorous” opportunities, only to find they await us again on that distant shore—we come
home to neglected family members, some unfinished household chores, a dog that needs to be walked.

Just as not every shoe fits every purpose, sanctity is unique in each human life. “Feeding the hungry” is one of the corporal works of mercy, but it has a different appearance in the work of a feeding center director, a cafeteria “lunch lady,” or an animal shelter volunteer.
Barring neighborhood pirates, it is still possible to “ransom the captive” by referring a friend to a substance abuse program, or a debt-counseling service. “Clothing the naked” can mean running a clothing drive, but it can also mean doing the laundry.

The Gospel is one-size-fits-all, but we must tailor its message to the circumstances of our lives and to those in our lives who need to hear it. It may be that we cannot convert a nation to Christ, but it may also be that only we can speak a word of encouragement to a lonely neighbor, a troubled teen, a family member with whom we’ve argued.

We have had the great fortune to find Christ in the middle of this ordinary life. Let’s find a way to share him with those he can touch in no other way.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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