The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:21 NRSV)

Do you remember Luke's comments about Jesus' younger years, "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him." I wonder if his mother Mary ever said to Jesus, "You're a bad boy." I doubt it, don't you? I'm not saying that Jesus did not have a normal childhood. What I am saying is there were some things Mary believed about Jesus. She knew he was a special child. He might be mischievous, he might be rowdy, but he could never be bad.

In his book, MISTREATED!, Ron Lee Dunn tells about two altar boys. One was born in 1892 in Eastern Europe. The other was born just three years later in a small town in Illinois. Though they lived very separate lives in very different parts of the world, these two altar boys had almost identical experiences. Each boy was given the opportunity to assist his parish priest in the service of Communion. Ironically, each boy, while handling the communion cup, accidentally spilled some of the wine on the carpet. There the similarities end. The priest in the Eastern European church, seeing the purple stain on the carpet, slapped the little altar boy hard across the face and shouted, "Clumsy oaf! Leave the altar!" That little boy grew up to become an atheist and a Communist. He was the strongman dictator of Yugoslavia from 1943 to1980. His name was Josip Broz Tito.

The priest in the church in Illinois, upon seeing the stain near the altar, knelt down to the little boy's level, looked him tenderly in the eyes and said, "It's all right, son. You'll do better next time. You'll be a fine priest for God someday." That little boy grew up to become the much loved Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Two young boys. Two similar experiences with radically different endings. We all need to feel loved, accepted, appreciated. May we love as God loves.

God of peace, filled me with your love, grace and forgiveness today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Ron Newhouse

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