There Is No Such Thing As Doing Nothing

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 16 November 2016)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Toward the end of August, San Francisco 49er back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick made national news as he sat, and in subsequent football games, knelt during the playing of the National Anthem.  Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the action, there is one thing that we all can agree upon—he caught the attention of the nation for the message he wanted to deliver.  No number of newspaper interviews or blogs or tweets could have delivered his message more strongly or clearly than his action.


Each evening before I go to bed, I reflect on a short inspirational message for the following day.  The message for today, November 16th is this: There is no such thing as doing nothing.  We are all doing something to shape the world, even by doing nothing at all.  In fact, that is precisely the point.  Or, as Dr. Albert Schweitzer (the great humanitarian), put it: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It is the only thing.”


So, how do my actions, the example I set influence others?

This coming Sunday marks the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Lots of words have been written and spoken about mercy and what one could do to make the Year of Mercy a special one.  I wonder sometimes if all those words spoken and written had any impact on us.  For me, the greatest impact of this year has been the actions of Pope Francis, the example set by him.  Once a month during the past year he has left Vatican City to perform a work of mercy.  He visited developmentally disabled adults and chatted and prayed with them; he visited the victims of the recent Italian earthquakes and played with the children and hugged those who had lost loved ones; he traveled to an island off the coast of Greece and listened to the plight of refugees, bringing a dozen Muslim Syrian refugees back to Rome with him on the papal plane.  I don’t remember what he said at each of those moments but the images are seared in my memory—the faces of those hurting being comforted.  The strongest image I have though is that of Pope Francis, a 79 year old man with bad knees and half a lung, in a prison kneeling at the feet of juvenile delinquents of different races and religions—gently washing their feet, lovingly drying them, and then humbly kissing those feet as part of the Holy Thursday ceremony.  Young women and men alike, discards of society, the forgotten, the bad kids, weeping as an elderly man showed them what mercy and forgiveness is all about.


So, how do my actions, the example I set influence others?

What message am I giving when I interrupt a conversation with a supposed friend to check my phone for a call or text message coming in?  What message am I giving when I walk through the hallways never looking a stranger in the eye or saying Hello?  What message am I giving if I am so preoccupied with my own concerns that I am unaware of or, even worse, trying to avoid another in need? What message I am giving when I almost always come late to school, late to class, late to practice, late to rehearsal, late to a meeting?  What message am I giving when I spend the whole day out of dress code, shirt or blouse tails hanging out, no ID, trying to get away with wearing whatever shoes I wish?  What message am I giving when my report card is filled with comments like: Needs to be more attentive in class—Does not do homework—Does not study for tests?  Words are cheap—words like: I’m sorry, Brother, for being out of dress code or not having my ID or leaving my shoes in my locker or at home.  Or words like: I have these grades under control; already they are a few points higher; my grades will get better, I promise.  Words are cheap (you know that as well as I do) unless we walk the walk!  It is not enough to simply talk the talk—we must walk the walk!


So, how do my actions, the example I set influence others?  Do I influence others for good?  Do I serve as a positive role model?

Another famous Francis, Saint Francis of Assisi, has said: Preach the Gospel, the Good News, AND if necessary, use words!


Let us pray:

Lord, each of us has been called to spread the Good News of your love to all with whom we come in contact.  Help us today to act in such a way that the example we give others is life-giving, is positive, and is reflective of love and care.  Help us to remember that when we do nothing we really are doing something to shape the world.  What is the legacy I want to leave to others and to the world today?

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Brother Frederick Mueller