10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 10, 2018 8:00 and 9:30 am
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville
From Scam to Partnership
At the end of April, just a little over a month ago, the CBS Sunday Morning show carried a good story that I want to share with you.
The story goes that a man in Utah named Ben found this brief message on his Facebook page. “My name is Joel from Liberia, West Africa.
“I need some assistance from you. Business or financial assistance will help empower me.”
Ben was very suspicious, but he decided to respond to this man named Joel. He thought that he might come up with a good story about Internet scamming that he could share on YouTube.
Well, Joel in Africa responded to Ben’s reply and proposed a business partnership involving used electronics. Ben wouldn’t bite on that, but proposed a different partnership.
Ben pretended that he owned a photography business and said that he needed some photos of an African sunset. He never expected to hear from Joel, but two weeks later, an envelope arrived with two photos of sunsets.
Ben thanked Joel for the photos, but said that he needed a better camera to get better photos. So he sent Joel a $60 camera.
Ben’s wife and children thought he was crazy to be doing this. But steadily, Joel sent photos and over time, he got pretty good with the camera.
One day, Ben’s skepticism melted when Joel sent him photos that captured the poverty near Monrovia. Now Ben felt that he had to figure out a way to compensate Joel – or he was going to feel like he was the scammer.
So Ben put together a booklet of Joel’s pictures. And amazingly, sales exploded through YouTube.
Ben then told Joel that he would send him $1000 of the proceeds. Joel could use $500 of that for his family, but the other $500 he had to donate to charity in Liberia.
Soon a new batch of photos arrived: poor students at four schools in Liberia with new book bags and school supplies that Joel had bought with the $500. So, to make a long story short, Ben in Utah and Joel in Liberia have become business partners.
They split the profits on the photos 50-50. Ben has created a YouTube series about Joel and his life in West Africa, and Joel is using his share to help his family and neighbors.
Ben says: “If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that you shouldn’t judge people. When we actually take time to get to know each other, we might be pleasantly surprised.”
Sin Against the Holy Spirit
Well, I think this is a great story, but I do want to be clear about something.
I am not encouraging you to be rash with things like this on the Internet. I am very cautious and I encourage you to be too, because there is scamming and it could hurt us.
But with that said, I share this story because it helps to bring out an important point in today’s gospel. Some people refuse to recognize the good that Jesus is doing.
They get so ridiculous that they even say he is casting out Satan by the power of Satan. They say that the apparently good things that he does are really bad.
This is what Jesus calls the sin against the Holy Spirit and the unforgivable sin. Our Scripture specialists tell us that Jesus is exaggerating here to make a point.
In truth, this sin and all sins are forgivable. But Jesus wants us to know that refusing to recognize good and be open to the good in others is very serious.
This can happen when we get trapped in cynicism and skepticism.
Our cynicism and skepticism may lead us to see only darkness in today’s world. It can lead us to completely give up on a family member who is caught in some kind of addiction.
And it can lead us simply to fear persons whom we don’t know or entire peoples who are different from us. So, sinning against the Holy Spirit is refusing to see and be open to the potential goodness in others.
This sinning condemns others to isolation and hopelessness. And, in truth, it also condemns us to isolation and fear.
So, Jesus’ very serious lesson is: Don’t sin against the Holy Spirit. Be open to seeing goodness and God’s presence in the other person.