AN EMPEROR of China had a sundial which had stood in the palace garden for so long that no one knew who had put it there in the first place. A sundial tells the time by casting the shadow of the sun onto a flat dial which is marked just the same as the face of a clock. For all the time the emperor's sundial had stood in the garden it had never made a mistake.
One day the emperor wanted to know what time it was, and sent one of his servant boys into the garden to read the dial. The boy came back and said,
"0 Majesty, the sundial is not working."
"Nonsense," said the emperor. "Go back and read it again." The boy went into the garden
again and came back with the same answer,
"The sundial is not working." The emperor himself went into the garden to see what the trouble was, for he couldn't believe that the sundial was making mistakes after thousands of years. He told the boy to read it again. The boy went over the dial and said,
"See, it still does not work."
You stupid boy," said the emperor, "you are standing so that you cast your shadow over it. There must be nothing between the sundial and the sun. Get yourself out of the way and everything will be all right."
How often we let ourselves get in the way and come between God and what He wants us to do. We are darkness, as St. Paul says, instead of being light in the Lord. The light of God's truth is always shining but we get in the way and cannot read the message. There must be nothing between the sundial and the sun and there must be nothing between ourselves and God. Let us see how this works out. You ask yourselves,
"What do I want to be when I grow up?" God may want you to do some special thing for Him. If you are selfish and refuse, then you are like the boy in the story, casting a shadow over the sundial. You are darkness instead of light in the Lord. You say to yourself, "I will begin in plenty of time to study for my examinations." You begin to study but then you get lazy. Yourself gets in the way, and you do not do well in the examinations after all. You are just like the stupid boy who cast his own shadow over the sundial. You say to yourself, "I will say the rosary every day during Lent." You say it for a few days and then get tired. You are just like the boy who cast the shadow of his own self over the sundial. Any time you are tempted to put yourself first instead of God, remember this story and remember the words of the emperor: "Get yourself out of the way and everything will be all right."
- Heirs of the Kingdom, Imprimatur 1949 -