Walking down the first-floor corridor of the monastery this morning, where the men who use wheelchairs have their rooms, I had a prayerful experience. From one room I heard an aide say, ‘It’s a lovely morning. Yes, God wants us to be fully alive.’ As I moved out of hearing range of that conversation, my ears locked onto a televised mass, ‘This is my body which is given for you’, followed by a litany. Even before reaching the chapel for morning prayer, I thought, what a wonderful orientation to begin the day.
Graces were being scattered this morning. I sometimes avoid the first floor because of feeling helpless when I hear someone calling for help or for an aide. There are graces there too, of course. It seems sometimes God shouts out to us, so we don’t miss something important, that our sail catches the breeze or our little boat doesn’t miss a current.
But we do get used to beautiful things, we can miss the cues. Matthew has told us often to get used to parables, be ready for the surprises. Our ears and eyes and lips were touched at baptism and primed for the wonders of God. We need to remind them of their joyful task.
It is a question can we always be attuned to the graces around us or are these simply special graces, gifts, that pop up? Can we cultivate them like a farmer or be like an astronomer ready to catch them when they shoot across our horizon?
Strolling through the lectionary these days we celebrated the Transfiguration last week, the anniversary day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, today we remember St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, who died with her sister and several men and women religious in Auschwitz, and the 14th of this month we celebrate the Martyr, Franciscan Father, Maximillian Kolbe, also a victim of Auschwitz. These feast days bring the shadow of war and the destruction of life to our prayer. The same is set before us in the daily news with its litany that calls out for forgiveness, hope, help, and compassion. God’s grace speaks to us.
Today’s gospel gives us the last word. Who is going to find the money to pay their taxes in the belly of a fish? As unexpected as the appearances of God’s grace can be, and our need then to be on the lookout for grace, as coins in a fish’s belly, so comes this prayer from the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrook, Germany. It is appropriate as we look for grace, and as we celebrate the startling appearance of grace in the holy life and death of Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite.
“Lord , remember not only the men and women of good will but all those of ill will. Do not only remember all the suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, and generosity, the greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their reward and their forgiveness.”
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.