There was a mother, recently separated, whose day was going badly. She was tired, stressed out and lonely, and she barely had the strength to lift her little boy unto his high chair for dinner. She put his food on the tray and opened the day's mail : finding yet another bill she couldn't pay! It was the final straw. She leaned her head against the tray and began to cry. The little boy looked

at his mother with a sad heart, then he took the pacifier from his mouth and pressed it gently to his mother's lips. He gave what he had, a pacifier, and it came from his heart.

That's the lesson Jesus gives us in today's Gospel. What makes us clean in God's eyes is not the purification rituals of washing our hands, our cups, our pots and pans as the Pharisees were insisting. That's all "stuff" on the outside. Jesus insists what makes us clean in God's eyes is getting our insides : our heads and our hearts : in harmony with God and our neighbors.

We can start by looking at what we already have and remembering where we got it. We can name our gifts out loud and let our hearts be astonished at seeing close up what a remarkable array of gifts we already have. Then we can give thanks to God for all these gifts! Thankfulness is an electric-like energy that needs an outlet, a release. Thankfulness says I've been blessed with so much that I need to bring my gifts to others that need them. Like the little boy with the pacifier, thankfulness says, "I need to share what I can."

But if thankfulness gives us the energy and desire to share, the question remains: who needs us? The answer is: lots of people : and not just widows and orphans! Some of us are creative problem-solvers; people need us. Some of us are clear thinkers; people need us. Some of us are strong and calm under fire; people need us. Some of us have a sense of humor to defuse awkward situations; people need us. Some of us are mediators who can find common ground; people need us. Some of us are visionaries who can see the big picture clearly; people need us. Some of us are practical folks who make things happen and get jobs done; people need us. Some of us are good listeners; people need us.

I know this: you each and all have great gifts of mind and heart, and there are plenty of people who need you. Don't stop washing your hands before eating, or brushing your teeth, or combing your hair. But realize that some really bad, bad people are very good at maintaining their outside appearance while their insides are quietly rotting. When we are baptized into the company of Jesus, God expects great things from us. So it's time for each of us to identify by name the precious gifts we have within us, and it's time to bring these gifts to other people. When a little boy in a high chair can do this for his distraught mom, we should be ashamed not to!

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