Two weeks ago, a parable was printed in our parish bulletin. Since you may not have seen it, or may not remember it, I'll repeat it:

A farmer owned a mule that fell into that farmer's old well. Hearing the poor mule braying, the farmer went to the site to appraise the situation. He felt badly for the old animal but decided neither the mule nor the well was worth saving. So he called his neighbors and asked them to bring their shovels to bury the poor mule right there in the well and put him out of his misery. The mule became hysterical. When shovels of dirt poured in on him from above, the mule instinctively shook off the dirt. As the farmer and his friends continued shoveling, a thought struck the farmer; after each shovel of dirt was thrown down, the farmer shouted at the mule, encouraging him to "Shake it off and step up!" The mule followed the farmer's directions and did what he was told. Soon the old mule, totally exhausted, stepped triumphantly out of the well. What was intended to bury him became instead his path to freedom.

Does anything similar happen to us? Are there times when everything seems to be beating us to the ground? When there appears to be no escape from being buried alive? When the forces of evil seem to be overwhelming? When even our friends seem to conspire against us? What happens then?

What can we learn from an hysterical, stressed-out mule who listens to his master's trusted voice telling him to "shake it off and step up!"? If we are as smart as that mule, we can learn to do the same! We can listen to our trusted Master's voice encouraging us to carry on. Jesus himself is the prime example of one who often had dirt piled and heaped upon him by many. He constantly "shook it off and stepped up" to continue his mission. When the debris of life falls upon us, do we "shake it off and step up"? When the dust and dirt of life blind our vision, do we "shake it off and step up"? When the hole we're in seems too deep to climb out of, do we "shake it off and step up"?

We should, because we have a Living God in whose image we are made and with whom we are destined for an eternity of love. We have God's Anointed One, Jesus, who heals both body and soul as in today's Gospel. We have a Holy Spirit abiding within us making us Temples of the Living God. In other words, we are precious in God's eyes : even more precious than that old exhausted, stressed-out mule stepping triumphantly out of the well. The dirt meant to bury him becomes his avenue of escape. So it will be for us, so long as we remember that God wants us to "shake it off and step up!"

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