Father John-Paul from Tucson’s Newman Center at last Sunday’s Mass:
“We’ve heard a lot of talk these last few days about ‘winning.’ We will have won when we’ve established a whole culture of life.”
Lots of loud voices lately. I think Father summed things up nicely. He didn’t elaborate and he didn’t have to.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary, who the whole Gospels said I think two things: “Do what [Christ] tells you,” at the Wedding at Cana and, on her way across the hill country to visit Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior,” i.e. the Magnificat.
She “pondered these things”–all things–in her heart, starting with the angel Gabriel’s announcement/invitation (actually, Mary was probably a ponderer since birth), and then for the rest of her life. She stood silently at the foot of the Cross, still pondering, holding what must have been the unbearable tension, sorrow, anxiety, and horror of having watched her beloved Son tortured to death.
Then she kept on living. She believed. She prayed. She served those around her.
So did St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who’s also been much on my mind as I’ve been writing about her for the past few months. “May we become little, more and more,” was her thought.
Really, this attitude goes to the heart of our faith. “I will give you the keys to the kingdom,” Jesus says to Peter in today’s Gospel. What IS that kingdom, if not the blind faith and insane-for-the-light hope that our pondering, little acts of love, constant efforts to purify our intentions, words, actions, and heart go out to all the world, help alleviate the suffering of all the world, help spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth?
Was Jesus who he said he was, in other words–or not? Because if he was, is, and the reign of love has been established, and death has been vanquished–do we really need to go around calling each other names, shouting each other down, going to battle stations about every contemporary “issue,” whether large or small: lording it over when we “win,” calling foul when we “lose,” hating, excluding, condemning while also labeling everyone who disagrees with us a hater, or a pagan, or a fanatic…
I ever more believe the “small,” the silent, the ones who ponder go a very long way toward keeping the world spinning on its axis. The ones who quietly devote their lives to searching for beauty and making things beautiful, and by beauty I of course include moral beauty.
I just wrote a column, for example, on a sublime book of photographs by a guy who spent 15 years in the jungles of Central and South America exploring the world of moths. He was 75 by the time he finished.
There is a moral beauty there, to my mind–the working in relative obscurity, the attention to detail, the staying up all night to photograph creatures who are nocturnal. Just as there is a moral beauty in someone who faithfully cares for her aging mother, or practices the violin, or tends a garden: activities that are away from the eyes of the world in other words. It’s not to say those are the only places of moral beauty but as Christ said when you have the adulation of the world for what you’ve done, you’ve already received your reward…
Celebrating such people and such actions and such lives is itself not calculated to gain a whole lot of approval, attention or interest.
I still think it’s the best I can do. And the best of what I and a whole lot of other people I admire, revere and love do.
Blessed Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”