A few weeks ago, a story on the front page of an international newspaper seemed out of place. Amidst the, sadly usual headlines, discussing worries over the economy; the horror of the war in Ukraine; political controversies taking place on a national and international stage – was this story about a man named Hody Childress – an 80 year old from Alabama who passed away on New Years Day of this year. It’s understandable if you’ve never heard of this man before. For the last ten years, that was how he wanted it. But after his death, it was revealed that every month for the last 10 years, he was making a monthly donation of $100 at his local, small town pharmacy to help anyone who needed help paying for their medications.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the the FIFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME – February 5, 2023, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments… I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim
When he first approached the owner in 2012, she thought it was a one-time donation as he said “I don’t want anybody to know who gave this, and I down want to know who you used it on. If they ask, just tell them it’s a blessing from the Lord.” When the pharmacist was able to use it for a family who needed help paying for a prescription, she let Hody know how much it meant to them. He responded “I don’t want to know who you used it on, and I don’t want any one to know who I am, but thanks for letting me know.”
The drug-store owner at that point, never expected anything further, but then two weeks later, he returned with another $100 bill – as she explained “He never said he was going to do this every month; he just showed up with it. Then those months turned into years, until we got here. I never expected it, even until the last donation. Hody got sick in October, which made it impossible for him to go himself, he asked his daughter to bring this donation for him, and gave her the same directions: he wanted to remain anonymous and just wanted anyone who asked to know it was a gift from God. At his funeral, his daughter mentioned this to some of her relatives, which caused them to wonder how long he had been doing that. So a cousin went to the pharmacy asked how long this was going on, and that’s when they discovered that he had been doing this for over a decade.
In the grand scheme of things, Hody Childress’ story doesn’t seem that impressive. As we read stories that involve companies moving billions of dollars, our federal government spending trillions – Hody’s $1,200 a year seems pretty insignificant in comparison. That $100 per month, quite scandalously, might cover one persons co-pay for one prescription. He could’ve very easily talked himself out of doing anything thinking like that. Telling himself “what difference is that going to make?” or “Why is it my problem?” He could’ve let fears run amuck saying “I may need this $100.” Yet this simple, faithful man who we’ve never heard of, from a town in Alabama we probably never heard of – became an international story. His family, noted that their father would have had a fit if he knew that he had been revealed as the benefactor. But in their mourning the loss of their father, they were so touched by his action. As his son Doug put it, “I hate watching the news. It’s depressing… stories of people getting shot, arrested for drugs, or what’s going on in the White House. I want to see something uplifting that makes me want to get up the next morning.” They found in their Dad’s example just that, and wanted to share it as one final gift from him.
Jesus in today’s Gospel continues his Sermon on the Mount, which we began last week with the Beatitudes. Where Jesus laid out a pathway for us to pursue holiness, how to be “blessed” ourselves. Immediately though he follows that with these words which highlight that being blessed isn’t something simply for our edification. Holiness means nothing if it doesn’t impact how we live… how we treat others. It’s important to reflect on that. Because sadly too often people can find themselves living in extremes. Listening to the lies of the evil one saying “its too hard” there’s too many problems, that are too big to solve and what impact can I make on that. Or we can close in on ourselves, create a nice, comfortable, Catholic bubble for myself and those closest to me, who share my same values and just fixate on what I think I need.
This call to be salt, to be light obliterates those thoughts, those extremes. Jesus is clearly saying that our following Him, our claiming to be His disciple is meant to be shared; it’s meant to have an impact outside of our own community. We’re supposed to witness to Him as the true light by being a light for others; we’re meant to testify to the difference Jesus makes by seasoning our world with His love. And we’re not to get lost and think it’s too much, that what difference can my little beam of light, my grains of salt when there’s so much darkness and dullness. Because thats an excuse – to just say there’s too many problems in the world. Forgetting that Jesus has already saved the world. By calling us to be salt and light, He’s calling us to highlight that fact of what He has done, and continues to do.
It reminds me of St. Mother Teresa. We’re still in awe of her example, a lifetime of selfless, sacrificial service where she helped the poorest, the sickest, the hungriest of peoples throughout the world. And again, we can fall for that trick of the evil one saying “I could never be like her” or “how pitiful my contribution is compared to someone like that.” It was Mother Teresa who said “If you can’t feed a 100 people, then just feed one…” That’s precisely what Hody Childress did for the people in his own community by making that monthly gift to help people pay for their medications.
We’re not meant to just look at examples like him, or Mother Teresa as something beautiful in a museum that we admire and just move on. We’re meant to hear the same words that they did from Jesus and be motivated into action. May each of us as members of His Church do our part – flavoring, brightening this world of ours – into the kingdom Christ envisions us to create.