Sunday Scriptures

Everyone Has an ‘Archie’

By Father John P. Cush

Msgr. Conrad Dietz, a professor of philosophy who taught at all of the various incarnations of Cathedral College in Douglaston, has instructed several generations of priests of the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, as well as the Archdiocese of New York, and even beyond.

Far from merely being admired by his students as a masterful teacher, Msgr. Dietz is known for being a remarkable homilist. I still remember one of his homilies preached more than 20 years ago. Monsignor said that everyone has an “Archie.” What’s an “Archie,” you might ask? Archie is that guy who drives you up the wall; everything he does is wrong; everything he says is annoying. Everyone, even the most charitable among us, might have an “Archie.” The kicker is, according to Msgr. Dietz, at times, we can become someone else’s “Archie.”

How do we deal with the people whom we simply don’t like? St. Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, tells us: “(I) urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.”

What do we need to get by? Recognize the dignity that each of us have as being created in the image and likeness of God, be humble and be patient.

Intrinsic Goodness

Recognizing that each of us is created in God’s image and likeness, despite the presence of original sin – washed away through the sacrament of baptism – and actual sin, both personal and social in our fallen world, we know every human being is fundamentally good. Even the people who annoy us and who have hurt us are still made in the image and likeness of God. The great 20th-century spiritual writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton describes his own realization of the intrinsic goodness of the human person:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…

“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Spark of Divine Light

People are generally good. On this, Pope Francis says: “From my point of view, God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us.” Recognize the presence of God within us.

The second thing we need to do is be humble. No one is perfect, certainly not me! Who drives us crazy and why do they drive us crazy? How much of their behavior is actually offensive, or how much are we projecting? That is not to say that some people are not nasty and antagonistic; some people are annoying. We can’t be best friends with everyone – we don’t have to like everyone; but we do have to love them.

There is a tremendous difference between liking someone and loving someone. Liking someone means finding something appealing and attractive about them; loving someone means willing the affective good for them.

Sometimes people in our lives can be occasions of sin; I’m not speaking about lustful temptation, but some people can bring out the worst in us. Be kind, be courteous and keep moving might be the best advice in dealing with these people.

However, sometimes the problem isn’t with the other; it’s with us! Sometimes we don’t like someone because they remind us of ourselves, of things we don’t like about ourselves and we project this onto the other person.

Sometimes our “Archie” might remind us of someone who had hurt us years ago, someone from our earlier life. We’re not perfect. Listen to the words of Pope Francis: “If we can develop a truly humble attitude, we can change the world.” Do you want to change the world? Be humble!

Finally, be patient, both with ourselves and others. What’s at the root of impatience? Two things: first, a desire to control, and second, a lack of trust in God’s plan. We all desire to be the master of our own destiny. What is at the basis of original sin? Failure to remember that God is God and we are not, and thank God for that! God’s in charge, not us.

Again, Pope Francis tells us: “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

At the root of impatience, I think, is a lack of trust in God that comes from fear. We can be afraid that God doesn’t have our back. Nothing can be further from the truth! Be not afraid.

If we recognize the dignity of each person, and practice humility and patience, our relationships with God, others and self, will be so much richer!

Readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Kings 4: 42-44
Psalm 145: 10-11, 15-16, 17-18
Ephesians 4: 1-6
John 6: 1-15

Father John P. Cush, a Brooklyn priest, is assistant vice-rector of the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City State.

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