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Religion column: Gathered in – Part two

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Judy continued, “We have a lot to be thankful for. Our kids, our health, our country, and all of the many gifts we have. Last Sunday, the pastor told us to believe our greatest earthly gift we can give, or receive, is the gift of charity. He reminded us what Jesus told his followers, telling us about the greatest gift of all, as Jesus said, “And now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest gift is charity.

“You know, Ed, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Charity, which I figure is the ultimate part of real love, is our giving freely of ourselves; without expecting anything in return.”

As her husband nodded, she continued, “The aunts need our understanding and forgiveness, in the same way we ask Christ to forgive us for who and what we are. If we do not have charity, then we are less than Christlike, as we are called to be.”

Not willing to just let the “fates” dictate another family disaster, Ed suggested, “Before they come over, rather than just let them loose on each other, why don’t we go over to each of them and tell them what we have decided and why. We know there has been a lot of hurt feelings, over the years, but I am not sure even they remember what the first cause was. Let’s try and find out.” They both lived some distance away, each in opposite directions, so two separate Saturdays were selected.

The phone calls did not go well. Each had rather weak reasons to decline, which were particularly acute upon learning of the other sister’s invitation. So, they were left alone to themselves for the day of Thanksgiving. When the phone calls were again made, this time on the first of December, one of the aunts was delighted to hear from their relations, the other clearly suspicious about the purpose, but eventually agreed to a time. Neither knew of the reciprocal nature of the effort.

Casually dressed, Judy and Ed pulled into the apartment parking lot of the first aunt. It was a beige, non-descript facility, seemingly made more bland by leafless trees, a chill wind and scudding skies. Pressing the buzzer, they entered the well-worn lobby, and heard a cheery voice coming from around the corner. “Hello, kids!” How are you?” Startled at the refreshing mood, they quickly hugged and were ushered into a spotless apartment; noticing a small Christmas tree on the kitchen table. The aunt had made coffee and offered homemade chocolate chip cookies. Neither visitor could believe this was the same person from last summer. “Honey,” whispered Judy, “you’re just standing there with your mouth open,” at the same time giving Ed a gentle nudge in his side with her elbow.

They soon got down to why they were there. After relating their own conversation about love and charity, the older woman relaxed; after taking a deep, cleansing breath. This aunt was quite sorry for what had gone on and her part in it. She did not want it to happen again, and said, “I think it would be best if I stayed away.” When asked about what caused the friction, between her sister and herself, she said, “I guess it happened over a beau, some 50 years ago. Each of us had fallen deeply for him, but we were only just silly kids. When his interests went from one of us, to the other and back, we really got angry and both of us never quit. I suppose, looking at all of this hurt, it’s a bit silly. Having married neither of us, he found himself married, and divorced, four times.”

To be continued: