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Friday, October 10, 2014

People Not Problems

“The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.” (Lk 11: 39)

Almost fifty years ago the friars sent me to barber school. It was an interesting experience for many reasons. Most of the people we “practiced” on were street people who were not very interested in a haircut, but in sneaking a drink of the Bay Rum tonic that we rubbed on people’s necks after a haircut. In any case, even today I notice people’s hair. As a barber, it is almost impossible not to look at the quality of the cut others have, and this lingering habit made me ask the question this morning: What are the things we pay attention to on a daily basis? Gardeners look at their flowers and plants. Cooks check the quality of the produce or the fruits they will use. Carpenters notice how well something is made.

We all pay attention to things according to our training or interest. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that a Pharisee was amazed that Jesus did not observe the washing rituals expected of observant Jews. Though the Pharisees were in many ways the liberals of their day, they were also devoted to a careful, even obsessive, observance of the Laws of the Torah especially the ritual washing taught by the Rabbis.

Unfortunately, like all of us, the Pharisees sometimes spent so much time and effort making sure the Torah was observed properly, they forgot the person doing the washing. The same thing can be true for barbers. We can spend so much time making a hair cut perfect that we ignore the sadness or joy that another is carrying, and that is the problem for the Pharisees and us.

Today ask God for the grace to be interested in each person you meet and to listen carefully to what they are not saying.

Who taught you to listen to the "stream beneath the stream?"

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