Blog # 434 Signs
Some days when I sit down to compose a new blog a thought for it seems to come right out of the blue. At other times it will come in response to an article in yesterdays' local newspaper. At other times, like this morning, a thought that invites me to respond to it in a blog just does not come, and I went back to reading some of the essays I published each week in the parish bulletins of
various Glenmary mission assignments as Pastor in Arkansas, Oklahoma, or here in
Georgia. That is the way it was this morning. The bulletin that helped me was from St. William Mission in Sandersville, GA dated October 29, 1995!
The gathering prayer of the Mass that day had these words in it: "Lord, may we do with loving hearts what you ask of us..." The first reading of the Mass from the Book of Sirach 35 said:
"He who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens..." The Gospel gave the story of two men at prayer in the temple , one a Pharisee and one a Publican or tax collector.
The Pharisee flaunts his righteousness before the Lord. "I did this and that, so many good things. The Lord should be happy, yes. I have glorified the Lord. How marvelous, and wonderful, and great I am!" The glory offered was tarnished and the Lord was not pleased. The tax collector's head was bowed and he addressed the Lord from his knees. He recognized his sinfulness and his plea for mercy was a promise to do better. The Lord's will would be his joy!
The following week I was preaching a parish mission over in Tennessee. There were scheduled mission talks both in the mornings and in the evenings for three days. In the afternoons I visited various members of the parish who were housebound.
One of the people I visited was a lady thirty two years old who had been suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) for years. She could not walk or stand. She had to be fed by others. She could believe in God, and she did. Through Baptism she was one with the Lord and the Lord was one with her, by faith. She could believe and she did. She could smile and she did. In God's love she possessed what she had always sought. Her dreams were realized in a way other than she had imagined, but really, and in a way she could not have imagined. What a blessed experience it was, and what a source of inspiration to have the privilege of bringing her the Sacrament of Holy Communion!
That evening I was giving a talk on the theology of Sacraments, outward signs, that give God's love to us personally. In the talk that evening I gave the definition of a sacrament as a sign and then illustrated various types of signs and how they work. A sign by its very nature points to something beyond itself. An exit sign tells you where the way out is located. A stop sign asks you to do just that, stop. If you receive a letter in the mail and it ends with the words "I love you", that too is a sign. " I love you" does not merely indicate a fact, like the exit sign, nor does it try to get you to do something like the stop sign. Rather it tries to give you something, love. Every Sacrament is a sign that says, from God, through Jesus, I love you in a particular way.
That evening in 1995 has had an influence upon the content of Blog # 434 today. Since God is the Creator of all that exists, everything is related to God and points in some way to God. Stones do this, and flowers, and we, for we too, with the stones and flowers have all been created by God and are signs that God is real.
Debbie, the lady with MS, "serving God willingly" was a very special sign of God. She was a sign that in spite of all our weaknesses and limitations, God's love can come to us, and invite us to be happy and to smile. I asked her to pray for me. In honor to her and in thanks to her I will end Blog #434 with a prayer: Lord, thanks for all You have given me in the many years I have lived and in the many places I have lived and for the many people who have touched my life. Help me to pray and trust You as You taught Debbie to trust and pray, giving You the freedom to love me in any way You desire, for You are my God and You are worthy of unconditional trust and total love, Amen !