There is this story about a farmer who owns a well and the well had dried up. It had gone bad and it began to fall into disrepair. The sides of it began to crack and fall over. The farmer had a donkey and he said to the donkey, “Stay away from that well. It’s kind of dangerous don’t go over there.” Now the donkey couldn’t speak human. So, he didn’t really know what the farmer was talking about. One day the donkey walks over to the well and he’s nosing around. And all of a sudden, he trips and falls into the bottom of the well. And the donkey is at the bottom of the well. The farmer, late in the evening, hears him making these noises, so the farmer comes out to the well. He looks down and goes, I told you to stay away from the well.
The farmer realizes, ‘I gotta get him out of here.’ So, he’s trying to think of different ways that he can do that. He realizes a rope won’t work. It’s too thin; he won’t be able to get it around him. He comes up with this idea. He says, ‘Well, if I can’t bring the donkey to me maybe I can raise the ground that he’s on.’ He thinks, ‘if I get all my friends together and we shovel dirt in a little bit at a time maybe the donkey can step up with the earth.’ He decides to do this. He calls his friends together and they gather around the well. The farmer looks down at the donkey. He says, “Hey donkey, don’t be afraid. This is gonna help you.”
Now the donkey doesn’t understand English. The farmer takes the first scoop; he goes like this (makes a motion to scoop up dirt) and he looks and he tosses it into the well. It hits the donkey and goes all over his back. The donkey looks up and he’s confused. And he’s thinking, ‘I’m at the bottom of well here and my master’s throwing dirt at me. What does this mean’? And then he notices that other people began to grab shovels. Other people that he knew from around the farm are grabbing shovels of dirt and throwing it on him. And he’s looking up and he’s thinking, ‘Why are they burying me? They should be helping me.’ So, the farmer yells down to him, “Hey donkey!” The donkey doesn’t speak English. The farmer says, “When the dirt hits you shake it off and then step up.” The donkey looks up at him confused. The farmer throws another shovel of dirt. The donkey is thinking, ‘Why is my master throwing dirt on me? Why isn’t he saving me?’
Finally, the farmer realized this donkey can’t speak human and so he said to him, “Hey donkey. Shake it off and then step up”. So, the donkey looks at him and he gets this idea. Alright. So, they throw another shovel of dirt on him and the donkey shakes off all the dirt, and he steps up. And he gains an inch. They throw another shovel of dirt and the donkey shakes it off. It’s another inch. He does this all day long until the sun is about to set. After all the dirt has filled the well, the donkey has shaken it all off and he has stepped up out of the well.
My dear brothers and sisters, sometimes life throws dirt at us. Right? Sometimes life throws something worse at us. But life throws dirt at us and sometimes we can’t understand why. Why is this dirt being thrown at me? Why am I being constantly thrown sufferings? Why are people betraying me or why are people leaving me out? Why are people throwing dirt or mud on me? Sometimes we can only look up to God and we say, “God why are you doing this to me? You’re supposed to be saving me right?”
Well, with each scoop of dirt, God is saving us. With each scoop of suffering that God throws into our lives or allows into our lives, He is saving us. Sometimes we’re like the donkey, right? We don’t understand. All these things are happening to us, dirt’s being thrown on us. We look up at God in confusion and we say, “Why?” We don’t speak God a lot of times. So, we look up confused and God is always trying to speak to us and help us to understand.
For us, too, it’s the same idea that when dirt gets thrown at us, when suffering gets thrown at us, when betrayals get thrown at us, when anything else gets thrown at us, we can do the same thing. Shake it off. Step up.
So, what does that mean for us particularly? Well, what it means is that dirt is an image for sin. That when we experience either our own sin or other people’s sin, we have to shake that sin off of us. How do we do that? I mentioned last week, every mass is an opportunity to do that. When we have the penitential rite, we are forgiven of our sins. But if we have a lot of dirt, if we have grave or mortal sin, then we go to confession. It’s a place for God to cleanse us and to free us from that dirt.
But the other thing is, we have to constantly step up again. We have to constantly take another step up onto that pile of dirt. Sometimes this can seem overwhelming. Like Moses, we hear in the first reading, they were waging a battle and a war. Moses realized that whenever he lifted his hands up in prayer, they would win the war. But Moses got tired after all day holding his hands up; he began to grow weak and tired. And so, Aaron and Hur came and they held up his hands, so that he could continue praying for God. And they won the battle.
So, we do depend on the church, the body of Christ, to help us hold up our hands. That’s why we come to mass on Sunday so that we’re not doing this alone. We hear in the second reading that Paul says, “I charge you to proclaim the word of God. Be persistent.” Whether it is in season or out of season. So, we have to persistently step up. We have to persistently take our place into the role that God calls us. He says “whether convenient or inconvenient, convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience.” Patience means to be willing to suffer.
So, when we have this suffering in our lives to be willing to accept it. But also willing to shake it off. Step up again. And then, finally, we hear from the Gospel of Luke. This woman wants to have her case heard before the judge. Jesus is using this example of necessity for them to pray always. To pray always is to continue, every day, every moment, to shake it off and to step up. It says there’s this judge and certain town. He doesn’t respect God or human beings. He’s not really a good judge. This woman wants to have her case heard. And so, she keeps bothering him as the judge says. And nagging him until he finally hears her case.
That’s what we have to do with God. We have to keep praying to God. Keep asking him, keep bugging him to help us. He desires to do that so much, but he also desires that we pray. Now, part of shaking off the dirt is forgiveness. To constantly forgive ourselves for any of the dirt that we throw on ourselves and to constantly forgive other people.
That’s how we shake off the dirt; we have to forgive.
If you find yourself buried right now, in unforgiveness. If there’s anger in your life, if there’s someone in your life that you just can’t find the strength to forgive, you have to shake it off. And then? Be the good person. Step up. If we do this continuously and continuously throughout our lives, God will save us. The sufferings that come to us, the pains that come to us, the betrayals that come to us, all of that is part of God’s plan. To lift us up from death to life. To bring us out of the dry well and bring us to his green pastures.
And so today, whenever you find yourself thinking about the dirt being thrown on you, I invite you to think about those two things: Shake it off. And, step up.