The smallest gifts from God are for me, the sweetest. When He takes a negative thought and turns it inside out, I know I have been given a tiny miracle. The human will is strong and the mind easily deluded. But if I am in the slightest bit open to grace, then the miracle happens.
Take the other night. Our parish hosted the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service — all the various faith communities in our town were invited to participate. It was a true welcoming of people from all around the world, each introducing their faith customs. Our choir, combined with members of the choir from the neighboring Episcopal Church, performed an anthem.
The theme of the service was home and hospitality. As it continued, I became uncomfortable as the perennial conundrum of every one of my Christmases showed its ugly face. Hospitality is not my strong suit and is a constant source of consternation during this time of year. I do not enjoy entertaining, nor am I good at cooking and baking. I tend to be shy and reserved during social occasions. I realize these are all lame excuses for not stepping outside of my comfort zone and making more of an effort. But beating myself up over it for the millionth time is not the answer either.
But beat myself up I did, all during the service, until the end. After our choir sang the anthem, I received a suggestion from God to help put away equipment after the service concluded; it is a job I perform regularly as a musician in my parish. As I did so, I received another prompt from God to ask the music director about the schedule of Masses on Christmas Day because I wanted to offer to cantor. Our choir normally does the Midnight Mass and not Christmas Day, but I felt a push from God to offer.
It was then that I realized how God had taken my feelings of guilt and inadequacy and turned them around to good. He reminded me that I had gifts to offer during this Christmas season and that I was to give them. Not only give them, but to be generous in my giving. And to never take my gifts for granted just because they are easy to give.
This does not excuse me from the work I need to do to step outside of my comfort zone. This is not God saying to me, “It’s okay, you don’t need to work on being hospitable and generous.” What He is saying is, “Give back what I have given you. And then, ask me for the grace to give more.”
Giving back those things that I can do with ease opens me up to the grace to tackle the more difficult jobs. In His wisdom, God knows how we must take baby steps at times to reach our full potential as His sons and daughters. The saints surely understood this — for many of them it took a long lifetime of hard work, setbacks, times of repentence and periods of growth and grace to be who God meant them to be.
People are especially attracted to St. Thérèse of Lisieux because her Little Way embodies these baby steps. She reminds us that something as simple as a smile can be a powerful form of hospitality even if we lack the ability to throw a successful dinner party. That helping an elderly nun cut her bread is a way to feed someone in need. St. Thérèse’s Little Way opens up a world of creative ways to serve others in love.
Embracing St. Thérèse’s Little Way is the positive approach to my shortcomings; they are ways of action to live out God’s will in my life. I can confess my guilt, leave it behind, and step by step, learn how to give more. First out of my plenty (those gifts I can give with ease such as my singing) and then out of my poverty (such as hospitality), depending upon God’s grace.
Copyright 2019 Susan Bailey