I got a really bad feeling the other evening…when granddaughter Hannah – “in the house” for a sleepover – reported in astonishment, “Gramps, the toilet is smokin’!”
You see, plumbing issues have never been among my favorite tasks to address, particularly any of those connected to a commode. Add in the confusing context of an 8-year-old’s obviously muddled description of the scenario, and I naturally braced myself for the worst as I headed down the hallway.
Herewith, the results of my apprehensive investigation:
Hmmm…I guess this gullible ol’ Gramps has been pranked again.
That’s certainly not the end of the world. In fact, it’s rather a delight to be on the receiving end of such frivolity – a sure sign that our granddaughter is advancing in age and wisdom and grace. On the other hand, her playful trick is pretty much a “one-and-done”: I’m certainly never gonna fall for this particular deception again.
But sometimes, I notice, the stakes are much higher when I allow myself to be deceived.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, as I’ve watched in horror the events unfolding in Ukraine. There goes Putin, acting like a madman – unleashing the fury of war on a neighbor, without any discernible provocation. And my heart and mind tell me, he’s got to be stopped. But how to stop him? Ah, there’s the rub.
We turn first to sanctions, of course. But in our hip pocket, there’s always military might – a war-making apparatus every bit as potent as the Russian forces now aligned against Ukraine. Does anyone doubt whether these implements of war will be deployed…if / when the sanctions don’t work?
And knowing that about ourselves, don’t we have to acknowledge the fact that the sinful seeds of war lie within our hearts, too? Isn’t it a grand deception, to say this prodigious American arsenal (built up over decades) is a harbinger of peace?
Now, I readily acknowledge that most folks I talk to these days disagree with me. (Many may even wonder what this ol’ Gramps has been smokin’…)
Still sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…when I consider the falsehoods we’ve long told ourselves about the efficacy of warfare. Ultimately, it becomes a problem when we can’t see beyond the beam in our own eye – for, as Jesus teaches us in this week’s gospel passage,
A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.
That’s why, as I pray for peace in Ukraine, I pray also for my own country and culture. I pray that we start looking for different ways to stop aggression…ways capable of bearing life-giving fruit to our brothers and sisters across the globe.
May the Holy Spirit ever strengthen in us…the conviction that our own conversion of heart is an important and necessary contribution to peace in the world.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.