>> spiritual fitness Be kind to witches? How kindness can overcome evil
How wonderful it is to be the recipient of another’s kindness! Our group was hopelessly lost. We were seminarians coming back to the United States but were able to spend a few days in Rome. We had just gotten off the bus, but were very lost in the large city. None of us knew any Italian. And just as we were gathering together, wondering what to do, a young man comes up to us and offers to help us.
His name was Michael. He stayed with us for a long while, showing us where we could go for housing and food. He was our interpreter and made sure everything was good for us. And he refused all offers of money. As soon as he got us settled, he was off. We were very grateful to him for his kindness, and truly felt we were visited by an angel from God. It turned our whole day around very quickly! Kindness can do that for us. It can lead a person to a deeper knowledge of God and might even change his or her whole life. In his recent book, which I highly recommend, The Virtue Driven Life, Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. relates how an act of kindness changed his life. He was in the second grade and wondered about his second-grade teacher, Sister Teresa Maria. He would see her go out of the convent a few minutes before the end of each school day with a box or tray covered by a napkin. It was apparent there was food inside, and Benedict wondered where she was going. He followed her one day and saw her go into a tenement building. He knew the building because on the lower floor was the barber who cut his hair. During the next visit, he asked the barber who Sister went to see and the barber told him it was an old sick woman. This really piqued Benedict’s interest, so the next time he saw Sister Teresa Maria go for a visit, he decided to climb up the fire escape and peek into the window. When he did so, he was horrified, for looking right back at him out the window was the “wicked witch” straight out of the Disney movie Snow White and Seven Dwarfs! He ran down the fire escape and up into the church with his heart pounding. As he calmed down before the statue of the Blessed Mother, a thought came to mind, “How come the witch did not harm Sister Teresa Maria?” The answer: “Because she was kind to her.” Then a profound thought came to him, “Maybe if the world was kinder to witches, they would not be so bad.” This is when he received his vocation to the priesthood, and he has spent much time in his life being kind to those who have experienced little or no kindness in their own lives. There is great power in kindness. It is the power of God. It is the power of love. Many of the psalms speak about God’s kindness. Their experience of being delivered and blessed, forgiven and healed is God’s kindness. Even being reproved for their sins and wrongdoings is an act of kindness, for it is far worse to die in sin. Acts of kindness contribute to the healing and restoration of a soul. All of us get bruised and hurt as we go through life. Unfortunately, we can end up forming a tough shell around our hearts to protect ourselves. It is a defensive shell that can keep others out – even God. Kindness shown to others can soften the heart – or at least does not add to the hardened layers! It heals not only the one showing kindness but the one receiving it. God brings good to everyone in every manner possible. I was very blessed growing up to be encouraged to receive God’s mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation. What a wonderful way to experience directly the kindness of God. Normally when we mess up, justice would demand us to be punished. We think of the story of the prodigal son who spent all his inheritance on wine and women. He found himself taking care of pigs that ate better than he. He decided to return to his father even though he felt unworthy to even be called a son. He might have expected punishment and harsh treatment for his foolishness, but something very different happened. His father came running out to him, embraced and kissed him. What kindness! The father called for an immediate feast and made sure his son knew he was beloved. That is how the Father treats us in the sacrament of reconciliation. “Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.” (Ps 103:10) The “kindness of God surrounds him who trusts in the Lord.” (Ps 32) His kindness is “from eternity to eternity toward those who fear him.” (Ps 103:17) There is great power in kindness, so this month let’s make a special effort to be kind to all we meet, especially those who are not kind to us.
4 steps to a kinder, gentler you
1 Reflect on a time in your life when you received kindness. What was going on that made the act truly memorable for you? How have you shown kindness?
2 Read the account of Jesus’ treatment of the woman caught in adultery in John Chapter 8, or read the story of the prodigal son in Luke’s Gospel. Reflect on the sins you have committed in your life. Imagine yourself being brought to trial for your sins in front of a crowd. Your own life hangs in the balance. Even worse – you know you are guilty. Then hear the words of Jesus your judge: “I do not condemn you.” He took upon himself our sins and received the punishment for them. Have we let his kindness touch our hearts?
3 Pray through some of these Scripture texts that focus on kindness:
Hos 11:4 “I led them with chords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.”
Ps 141:5 “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness. Let him rebuke me – it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.
Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice; to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Ps 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.”
2 Cor 6:6 Paul describes the life of an apostle.
2 Tim 2:24 “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil.
Romans 2:4 “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
1 Cor 13:4 “Love is patient and kind…”
Luke 6:35 Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great; and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.
Col 3:12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.
4 Try and do one act of kindness – no matter how small – for someone each day. Try doing it for strangers or for those who would not be able to pay you back with a favor. Jesus reminded us, “If we love only those who love us, what good is that? Even the pagans do the same.” If we have not practiced a lot of kindness in our workplace or even our home, begin there. Feel how good it is to be an instrument of God.