The Confidential Counsellor
Two members of St. Anthony Welfare Society in a parish, one a counsellor and the other a social worker, went on a mission of finding funds for a woman who had a kidney failure and had to undergo a serious operation. They knocked on the door of a wealthy man and were welcomed heartily. Their host listened intently as the counsellor briefly described the tragic circumstances of the ailing woman and her desperate need for financial assistance.
“We are expecting you to make a very generous donation,” said the counsellor, concluding her story.
“Could you give me the name of that sick woman?” asked the host.
“I’m sorry, that’s not possible,” explained the counsellor. “You see, as a rule, we do not reveal the names of the people we help. And in this particular case, in fact, the woman herself finds it hard to admit that she needs charity.”
“Well, if you want my contribution, you will have to disclose the identity of the sick woman. I will keep it in the strictest confidence. I had intended giving you five hundred dollars, but if you reveal the woman’s name, I will raise it to one thousand dollars.”
“We will not do that by any means,” said the counsellor, shaking her head.
“Okay, how about two thousand dollars. You are not going to refuse that amount.”
“Under no circumstances will I break the woman’s confidence,” insisted the counsellor. The social worker looked at the counsellor in disbelief.
Taking a deep breath, the host said, “Three thousand dollars, then.”
Before the counsellor could reply, her companion pleaded with her, “Three thousand dollars will pay for the living expenses and part of the hospital bills. He is an honourable man. Surely he can keep the secret with us.”
The counsellor walked towards the door. “I’m afraid,” she said, “I should have left long ago. The honour of the woman is not open to barter or negotiation, regardless of what the sum of money might be. We have other benefactors to visit.”
Before they could leave the home, the wealthy owner begged the counsellor to come into his private study.
The moment they were alone, he broke into tears. “Counsellor, I recently lost every cent I saved. I am not able to make even a token payment on my loans. I have wanted to go to someone for help, but I couldn’t stand the idea of everyone in the city knowing that I am a failure.”
“Now I understand,” the counsellor said tenderly. “You were testing me to see if I could be trusted with your secret. I will seek funds for you as well as the woman who is sick. What you have told me will be kept in confidence.”
The two visitors bade their host farewell and walked towards the place of their next visit.
“Well, counsellor,” said the social worker, “how much did he give you?”
The counsellor smiled and then playfully shook a finger at her companion. “Shame on you. You know such things are a secret.”
– What thoughts, feelings, occurred to you while you went through the story?
– What do you think is the ‘moral’ of the story?
– taken from “Persons Are Gifts”, by Hedwig Lewis, SJ
1 Samuel 1:24-28
When Hannah had weaned the infant Samuel, she took him up with her together with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’
1 Samuel 2:1-8
My heart exults in the Lord,
my horn is exalted in my God,
my mouth derides my foes,
for I rejoice in your power of saving.
The bow of the mighty is broken
but the feeble have girded themselves with strength.
The sated hire themselves out for bread
but the famished cease from labour;
the barren woman bears sevenfold,
but the mother of many is desolate.
The Lord gives death and life,
brings down to Sheol and draws up;
the Lord makes poor and rich,
he humbles and also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust,
he lifts the needy from the dunghill
to give them a place with princes,
and to assign them a seat of honour;
for the Lord the props of the earth belong,
on these he has poised the world.
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
The Magnificat recited by Mary in today’s Gospel has a historical origin in the old Testament. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, also offered up her son in the service of the Lord in thanksgiving for having her prayer answered.
There are striking similarities between Hannah and Mary. Firstly, both gave thanks to God for the child they bore in their wombs. Secondly, their sons played a pivotal role in their times: Samuel oversaw the end of the period of Judges and the beginning of the monarchy whilst Christ came to restore life to the world and in doing so, fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. Thirdly, excluding the Gospel of Luke which provides us with greater insight on Mary, there is little written on the two women after childbirth.
What lessons do these three points hold for us?
The prayer of Hannah and Mary’s Magnificat shows us the generosity of God in granting us favours that manifest his glory to the world. We must always remember that like Hannah and Mary, we are servants and instruments of God whom seek to bring his glory to the world. It is easy to forget our purpose and think that our success emerge from our own doing.
We are called to not live a life of mediocrity but a faith-filled life that bears testimony to our belief. An extraordinary life is what we are obliged to lead but we often do not answer this call. There are no penalties for not fulfilling this obligation now but we will be judged based on our capabilities to spread the Gospel.
Success must never get into our heads; there is no need to broadcast our actions to everybody in order to gain recognition. We must always remember that going about quietly to do the will of God is perhaps the best way to ensure that our deeds will be recognised by our Father in heaven.
We have much to learn from Hannah and Mary in today’s readings and let us begin by first acknowledging the tremendous amount of blessings that God has given to us without us meriting them.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nick Chia)
Lord, our prayer adds nothing to your greatness but allows us to express our gratitude to you. May we never forget to praise you in our life. Amen.
Give thanks to the Lord for: Tthe Magisterium who is our harbour of truth.
Sun, 23 Dec – Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24; Fourth Sunday of Advent
To subscribe to this mailing list, send a blank e-mail to this address:
To unsubscribe to this mailing list, send a blank e-mail to this address: