It’s Monday. The start of another week of work. Mondays are a time to make a goal or two or three. For me, such goals give me life. Whether it’s cleaning or yard work or a project at my place of employment or a special menu, my goals inspire me to get moving. Beyond inspiring me to use my time well, they inspire me to make a “great use of [my] life.” Something useful for earth and time, something useful for the timeless. William James wrote, “The great use of your life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” Anything I do now has an impact on our earthly future and on eternity.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha who was canonized in 2012. Her 23 years of life were filled with suffering—the death of both parents, smallpox causing poor vision, a trek to Montreal where she could practice her Christianity, and the denial of her request to found a convent. It is a day to reflect on the injustices toward Native Americans from the earliest days of our nation’s history to the present. The accounts of mistreatment embarrass me—as they should everyone. I can’t donate to every request for money that comes in the mail; however, I am partial to Catholic organizations assisting Native Americans. May we try to right the wrongs of our history through good deeds and “good trouble, necessary trouble” (John Lewis).
I remember as a little kid liking this line from Scripture: “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward” (Mt. 10). Great! I thought. I’m assured heaven for such a simple deed. And so I carried a thermos of ice water or lemonade to my dad working in the fields. I made Kool-Aid and popsicles for my siblings. I carried a cup of water to my mom mowing the lawn. I was racking up a lot of points with God. Plus, I felt so good about it! My heart was really into my little deeds. I felt God must be very pleased with me. How could God not be pleased when I saw the pleasure on my family’s faces? My picture of God looked like the pictures in my catechism, but my feelings toward God and from God were like the feelings expressed in my family. I learned all about God’s love and gratitude and kindness and thoughtfulness from my family. May someone feel closer to God today through our cups of cold water—in whatever form they take.
Typically a number of Sisters of Notre Dame move to a new residence in the summer, usually due to a change in a place of ministry. A sister, for example, may be a teacher in one town but becomes a pastoral minister in another town. A change may derive from health reasons or the need for a particular sister in a residence that needs her skills. Just as a family welcomes a new member, our residences do the same. We zig and zag to make room, accommodate, change our ways of doing things, and live daily life with new perspectives. We form a new unity, a new community in which each member is a sacrament of God’s presence. The same is true when a sister leaves a house. Whether the community increases or decreases in number, no matter which sisters comprise the residence, every community is a community for mission. Each community seeks to give witness to the presence of the Lord among them.
The Epistle to the Ephesians begins with God’s plan of salvation—and it includes us! And not only us but every generation. We were all chosen by God in Christ before the world began and given the responsibility “to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love” (Eph. 1:4). In other words, Christ picked us to be on his team. As a team, what is our aim? Since the fullness of Christ fills the universe, then we too are filled with Christ and need to become more reverent towards Christ’s omnipresence. As members of his team, it is up to us to try to realize how we can make others more aware of God’s plan “to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ” (Eph. 1:10). Now if this were baseball, what would it mean? We need to pitch the message of unity. We need to run the bases in a “life of good deeds” (Eph. 2:10). We must stretch to catch God’s wisdom. We need to keep up our courage after two strikes, because trials “are [our] glory” (Eph. 3:13). Make the most of present opportunities (Eph. 5:16) to steal a base in completing God’s plan of salvation. Through Christ the whole team grows, and the members are joined firmly together building up in love. Now that’s a home run!
Because evolution follows the trajectory toward more consciousness and more complexity, I guess that requires each of us to become more conscious and more complex. Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it, especially when July puts many of us into vacation-mode. So what can we do to become more complex? We can re-create ourselves by developing our minds. There’s always more to learn. What would you like to learn? A new game? A new language? More about science? Tips for better relationships? More about your religion? Challenge yourself to re-create yourself even when enjoying the recreation that July often offers. In the process you will become more conscious of yourself and see more truly who you are.
Our contemplative attitude toward living lies in seeing the real. We see people—all persons, even the annoying ones—as the presence of God. God says to each person, “You are my beloved.” To understand ourselves as beloved, we need to let the truth of our Belovedness become part of everything we think, say, and do.
What do you radiate? The electromagnetic field of the heart is about 5000 times more powerful than that of the brain. When our hearts are holding joy and love, the brain is less likely to focus on worry and stress. Instead, the brain focuses on love, empathy, creativity, and joy. Because the heart’s electromagnetic signal can be felt and measured 6-10 feet away, one person’s heart rhythm affects the heart rhythms of others nearby. Our spiritual gifts of the Spirit—charity, joy, peace, patience, and many more—can bring those same virtuous feelings to those nearby.
Today’s beautiful reading from Ephesians (3:8-12, 14-19) states that Christ dwells in our hearts. Yet the feast celebrates our need to reside in Christ’s heart, to take on his heart, to learn from Jesus Christ who is meek and humble of heart. But the dwelling is reciprocal. Christ’s dwelling in us gives us the strength to know “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
I just finished reading Camron Wright’s novel based on a true story, The Orphan Keeper. A child stolen from India and living over 20 years in the United States senses his need to return to a place that’s a half-globe away. Wright’s page-turner tells of loneliness, abandonment, and loss of identity. The reader senses that the main character cannot reach his full human potential until he becomes connected with his origin. Connecting with his roots, he becomes more fully human. We, too must see ourselves related to everyone and everything. We grow in the context of community. As our country opens up after the pandemic, we will participate in more gatherings—parties, reunions, neighborhood picnics county fairs. Let these opportunities to connect help us become more fully human, more our real selves that are related to everyone and everything in the mystery of God’s Creation and Incarnation. In the new creation is the fullness of Christ, which is all humanity and creation bound in a union of love.