About 8 years ago around this time of year, our daughter-in-law was hospitalized due to a medication reaction. My husband and son are both CPA’s and were working 7 days a week at that time and I was charged with looking after our 2 and ½ year old grandson, Mikey, and 8-month-old granddaughter, Cate. I will always remember the sheer panic I felt as my husband left for work that morning leaving me with our grandchildren for the next 8+ hours. While they were frequently at our house and I was well accustomed to their schedule, this was not what I had planned for my day to be sure!
My week was set out before me with a task list for each day and suddenly I found myself moving from go, go to stop. I admit it took me a while to slow down internally, I used all the clichés and metaphors I could remember to convince myself that this work was my call for the day. Meeting agendas, papers to be written, and email responses would need to be done on a different day. I told myself that this was my invitation from God to slowdown, be present and receive the gift of each moment.
Mikey was going through a Thomas the Tank phase, so I entered into his world of Thomas and listened to his stories of what each character was doing. We ended up outside with sidewalk chalk drawing tracks and islands, and Mikey was enthralled with what we were creating together. I remember looking deeply into his eyes, feeling mesmerized by their clear, earnest and joyfully expression. It was then that I understood I was looking into the Imago Dei and joy filled my heart.
Later that afternoon when both children were napping (and Grandma was sitting starting into space with a cup of coffee to bolster her during the rest of the evening), I realized that in forcing myself to be present to my life circumstances, I understood the “something greater here.” I once read that we all want to find the Pearl of Great Price, but we do not want to pay the price. We want it without putting the time in…. Putting in the time requires hard work and discipline and it doesn’t sound very exciting.
Last Thursday, following Ash Wednesday, we heard the call to choose life from the Book of Deuteronomy. This is an invitation given to us each day—to choose to enter into the day we are given which is perhaps not the day we had planned. The Ninevites heard Jonah’s call to repent or be destroyed and they allowed their day and their life to be rearranged. So, maybe our day doesn’t require such a so radical shift, nonetheless the invitation to experience the something greater is offered to us as well.
Jonah entered hostile territory; the Assyrians were enemies of the Israelite kingdom. If they listened to Jonah and repented, then what is the issue with Jesus’ message to his own people? Why are they looking for a sign? If the “queen of south”—a pagan—recognizes something greater, why don’t they see what is before their eyes? Why don’t we see what is before our eyes?
The kingdom of God is among us and in us, may our eyes be opened to see the movements of God in our lives. Amen!
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.