A Flea Market, a Fiddle and an Old Man

For the Heart:

Tom was surprised to find himself at the flea market, not merely as a potential customer, but with a booth of his own. He had recently cleaned out the house inherited from his parents, and considered this venue more advantageous to sales than his own front yard. As he unpacked iron-wrought lamps and old records, he came across a fiddle, worn and dusty, which had resided in the attic for as long as he could remember. Nevertheless, the fiddle was intact, had all the strings and the bow. Tom had done a cursory dusting off, and placed it on the table with some of the other of his curious wares. He hoped for $20 to $30 dollars from someone with a nostalgia for music to purchase it as a possible decoration piece.

Half way through the morning, despite the large crowds at the Flea Market, sales had been rather disappointing for Tom. He was even beginning to wonder if he would make back the money it cost to rent the booth. Just then, an elderly, bearded man slightly bent and supported by a cane absent-mindedly stopped at Tom’s booth. When he saw the old, dusty fiddle, his eyes grew wide and he reverently cradled it. With the sleeve from his shabby jacket, he began to dust it off. He carefully tuned it and, to Tom’s surprise, began to play a classical piece: soft and melancholic. The old man and the violin were transformed. They came alive, and seemed to be transported beyond the market. The maestro and his violin were one. A crowd began to gather around Tom’s booth to listen to the impromptu concert. The hustle of the crowded flea market dissipated into a silence and awe at the melodic beauty. Then the music stopped. The old man handed Tom the violin, and with a grateful smile simply said, ‘Stradivarius,’[i] and walked away.

Jesus always saw in those that he met their potential for greatness. He placed it in them. For example, when Jesus met the tax collector Matthew, he knew his ‘dust’ better than anyone did. However, Jesus saw through that to the real Matthew. Our Lord saw in Matthew an apostle, an evangelist, and a saint. That was Matthew’s vocation. He only needed to be open to our Lord’s invitation.

What do we see when we look at others? There is certainly dust. They have their faults, their imperfections, their sins. That is real. But can we see with the perspective of God, beyond the dust to the original beauty placed in them by their Creator? The goodness, placed there by God, always outweighs the negative. Do we actively seek out the objective good in others? Can we go so far as to help them see the good in themselves? Are we convinced of their ability to do something beautiful?

More often than not, the one we have the most difficulty seeing beyond the dust is ourselves. We are keenly aware of our weaknesses and sins. We tend to overwhelm, and wonder if God could actually do something with our mess. We give our dust greater power than the maestro of our soul. Allow God’s grace to work in your life through prayer, the sacraments, and through service. Do not be dismayed that the dusting off takes some time, or that new dust occasionally reappears. The effort is worth it. We were created for greatness in the hands of our Lord.

May the concert of your life bring glory to the Maestro.

Fr. John Bullock, LC


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[i] A Stradivarius is one of the violins, violas, cellos and other string instruments built by members of the Italian family Stradivari… during the 17th and 18th centuries. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this belief is disputed. The fame of Stradivarius instruments is widespread, appearing in numerous works of fiction. [Cf. ‘Stradivarius’ in Wikipedia].

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