I wish. That sure sounds good, though.
“Women’s Devotional” was the subject line of the email that contained this scripture passage, from my girlfriend, as I awoke to a gray day in Carmel, Indiana this morning. Accompanying it there was a brief note that said, “Thanks for being my prayerful friend.” It followed a lovely note from a second friend yesterday that struck me as ridiculously over the top in terms of gratefulness. I quickly shot back, “Thanks are unnecessary.” My instinctual response, interiorly, was one of rejection. Oh, no, I haven’t done anything to warrant gratitude. What’s wrong with these friends of mine? I know they mean to be nice, but I just wish they wouldn’t. There’s nothing special about me.”
Then, knowing the priests of the diocese are on retreat this week and that I wouldn’t be attending mass this morning as normal, I looked up the readings for today. It’s the feast of the Guardian Angels. How sweet and sentimental, I thought.
It wasn’t until I read the gospel that I woke up. He called a child over, placed it in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly father.” (Mt. 18)
In the kingdom of God there exists complete, humble trust in the ways of the Lord. That’s the path to holiness we are meant to notice this week. First, there are the Archangels, then my beloved St. Therese of Lisieux with her “little way”, and then finally today the feast of the Guardian Angels. They might seem all rather mild and sentimental, but I believe we are meant to realize that what they have to show us is at the heart of our faith tradition.
In the eyes of the world, and yes, sometimes in even our own eyes, we are nothing. Our contributions feel negligible. But I realize this afternoon that whatever enhances life, whatever affirms goodness, is the Holy Spirit working in our world. We are God’s children, and our every small act of love is a step on our path to Him. We may feel small, in fact, we are….but the feasts of our Church these last few days remind me of Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” We are not meant to deny the grace filled affirmation our friends bring to our lives any more than we are meant to loathe ourselves, denying His goodness and love in every small work done through us. That line of thinking is arrogant, and lacks humility. It’s false humility, and it is not of God.
Fr. Robert Barron, the soon to be installed rector at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, and creator of the amazing series “Catholicism” (which I recommend every Catholic see), has spoken periodically about the devil. He eloquently explains that the devil tempts us, afflicts us, and wounds our world often indirectly. He reminds us to check ourselves. The Holy Spirit affirms someone in their personhood, says Fr. Barron, while the influence of the devil will wound us with untruth.
Who have you wounded with untruth, gossip or insinuation? Are you listening to archangels or fallen ones?
The next time a friend says “Thanks, Shelly, you’re the bomb” I plan to change my response. “Thanks aren’t necessary” will henceforth be amended to “You are so very welcome!”
When I do that, it’s a prayer of thanksgiving to my love and my savior, for choosing to use me for His purpose, and for the grace that caused my “Yes, Lord!”
This afternoon, I am praying gratefulness for the attitude adjustment and the peaceful spirit I seem to have acquired. That’s weird. Gratefulness to God brings me to calmer waters? As my 8-yr old son would say, “WELL, DUH!”
Somewhere in heaven there is a beautiful, but exhausted guardian angel assigned to me who deserves a nap.
“I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.” (Ps 131:2)
Now, I’m off to make some turkey soup– small thing, great love. Yum.