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My mother and I were doing errands and we stopped at Dunkin Donuts. I order a plain donut. Why a plain donut instead of my usual chocolate doughnut? Because a guy in an apron and flour all over his arms just came out of the doughnut making room and brought out a tray of plain doughnuts. It was crunchy on the outside and still warm inside. The waitress brought my mother a cup of coffee in a porcelain cup with two free refills. Today, coffee is served in a paper cup and you pay extra for the grande; the donuts are not the same. This is not to say that the franchise is a failure. In fact, they are arguably one of the most successful businesses in the world. Over the passage of time, we often lose some of the qualities that made us special. That doesn’t mean we cannot go back and reclaim what was lost over time.
After a taste-test, the majority of those who participated said that McDonald’s coffee was tastier than Starbuck’s. That didn’t go over very well with the Starbuck’s people. They closed all their stores nationally for three hours and re-taught all the employees how to make a cup of coffee. Apparently, over the passage of time, the old formula was forgotten and they needed to get it back again. It happens, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t get it back.
There was a guy who had a great idea and all he had was a phone and a truck. Someone would call and say, “I am moving to Florida and I have all this nice furniture; I don’t want to bring it with me. Can you use it?” The guy with the phone and truck would go to the house, take away the furniture and bring it to a family that could us it. He would even take away their junk furniture. It was such a brilliant idea that people started to throw money at the project. Money has a way of changing things. He ended up getting a fancy building with fancy offices and a fancy phone system, etc. Someone who donated to the project looked at the progress and success and said, “It was a lot better when it was a guy with a phone and a truck.” Sometimes through the passage of time, we lose sight of what made us special; we have to go and get it back.
Josiah was eighteen when he became king of Judea. He saw that his people had drifted away from God. They had other things in their lives to attend to. The king decided to restore the temple thinking that if the temple looked really nice, people would come back. While they were knocking down the walls, someone found an old book. They blew off the dust and gave it to the king. It was the Book of Deuteronomy, the words of advice from Moses before the people crossed over to the Promised Land. He read the stories of the Israelites when they were in the desert and how they became close to God. They said to God, “We are in a desert and we don’t have any water.” God said, “Hit the rock with your staff and water will come.” Then, they didn’t have any food. God let food fall from the sky. The people depended on God for everything and they bonded with Him. The relationship was so special that God called them his children. After Josiah read the book, he said, “We do not need to restore the temple, we need to restore our hearts. We need to return to the desert and get what made us so special to God.” This is Lent. We go back to the desert and there find what we may have lost over the years. We sometimes lose what made us special to God and to others, but we can always get it back.
I encounter a lot of medical students. I admire their determination and commitment. They tell me how they get through the sometimes grueling training. They dream about the people they are going to help and the difference they will make. That is what I used to do. When I was in the seminary, for ten years I dreamt about being a priest and what I would do as one. I dreamt of the people I would help, and my relationship with God. Often, I go back to those days to make sure that I am living the dream. Sometimes, because of the passage of time and the desire to succeed, we lose some of the qualities that made us special. Sometimes we need to go back. Lent is that time to make sure that we are living the dream.Back to All Homilies