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  • Sarah Raad

Dogs

“It is the master who must eat and enjoy my meals, not the dogs. The master's appreciation is enough for me.” (Pope John Paul I).

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (El Greco)

I recently heard a story that Pope John Paul I wrote about a particular cook. And the story goes like this…


One day the cook slaughtered a calf and threw the entrails into the yard. The dogs in the yard saw the entrails, raced towards them and ate them quickly. After they finished eating, the dogs said, “He is a good cook; he cooks well.”


Later that day, the cook was shelling peas and peeling onions and again he threw the scraps into the yard. But this time, when the dogs came over the sniff the scraps, they sniffed scornfully and said, “The cook is spoiled; he's worthless now.”


The cook; however, was unperturbed by the opinion of the dogs. You see, the cook understood who his real critic was, and the cook said, “It is the master who must eat and enjoy my meals, not the dogs. The master's appreciation is enough for me.”


And I have been reflecting on the attitude of the dogs and the cook in the story told by that Pope…


You see, I have spent my life as a dog…


Just like the dogs, when the good times come, I have taken the entrails and devoured them – thinking to myself that I have devoured a feast, devoured the prime meat of the calf itself. And when the bad times have come, I too – like the dogs – have been thrown husks and onion skins, and at those times, I have sniffed disdainfully at those scraps and moaned to myself that I have been cheated or robbed of my rights and that God does not love me…

And yet, I am like those dogs in that story because I fail to see the true meal that is being prepared for the master, and in failing to see that, I can neither appreciated its deliciousness nor anticipate the scraps. And that makes me weak… And when I am weak, I cannot practice the sort of charity that my Beloved has asked me to practice, and my focus is all wrong...

For Christ warned, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them...Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4).


And I have been thinking of this today, as I reflect on my weakness as the most ungrateful of all the dogs…


For the meal is prepared for the Master – and it is my job to accept that. After all, if I can only learn to accept that just a little, I would be satisfied with the calf itself in the kingdom of Heaven, instead of making do with the entrails here on earth…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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