Do not grieve like those who have no hope. No prophet is accepted in his native place.
There’s this amazing little person that lives in my house. About 46 inches tall, long hair, a beautiful singing voice, and wow, what a dancer. She just turned nine last week. It really seems like yesterday that she was still a question – something I wasn’t even sure was real – and today, yes the 31st of August, 2015, she’s walking into a fourth grade classroom for the first time.
My father died just a few days after my daughter was born.
I remember getting The Call. I was off to pick up my wife and daughter and bring them home from the hospital for the first time that morning. But then, on the way, I had to go sign for my father’s body, stop by the mortuary and buy a casket. And when I finally got to the maternity ward, I was greeted by the nurses and doctors with such joy…but I sure didn’t feel joyful. There were flowers and balloons everywhere, but all I could see were my shoes hitting the floor – one after the other – thumping along as though there were someone else’s feet inside them.
Some years later, around her birthday again, my daughter and I were walking toward the sanctuary when the Pastor walked up and said, “Daphne, I just love your shoes!” (They were very pink, and very bright). And she said “Oh, Monsignor, I don’t love them. They’re only things. You can’t love things…only people.” Very graciously he replied, “You know, you’re right. I don’t love them, but I sure do like them very much. Well, goodbye.” My little girl again piped up, “No, no! Monsignor, for people with faith there is never a goodbye…only See-You-Laters.”
For people with faith, there are never goodbyes.
I wish I had remembered today’s passage from 1st Thessalonians when my father died. How obstinate I am! I wonder how many times God tried to reach me in all these years of sadness before he used a (then) 5 year old to bring to life the Good News. The signs and messages were always there…I was just too closed to accept them.
The people in today’s Gospel were a lot like me. Here is the Son of God himself, standing right in front of them, talking to them. God comes to heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, shower peace and love to all people, share the message of Eternal Life, and these folk were just too closed to see him at work in their lives. In fact they were so angry, they were going to cast him away and throw him off a cliff!
God appears to us all the time, in every moment – always waiting to save, always knocking at the door of our hearts, begging to be let in – if only we would make room and let him in. Look around… A pal or neighbor says a word that “hits home,” or some graffiti on the side of a truck that goes by, perhaps a tiny whispering sound, or someone you’ve only just met who seems to know exactly what you’re going through… Or maybe, just maybe even a 6 year old ballerina with very pink, very bright shoes.
Who has been God to you?
How have you led Him to a cliff to be thrown over headlong?
How has God touched someone through you?
How are we going to open the door right now?
Because it’s true… For people with faith, who are open to the work of God in their life, there is never a goodbye… only a “see you later.”
So, friend, see you later.
Dear God, thank you for the gift of your most amazing and ever available presence. Please grant us the grace to always open the door and let you in. Amen.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, CA, and a member of the Retreat Team at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center.