Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rejoice in the Hope Within Us

A religious Sister on vacation at her family home went to the train station with a brother-in-law to pick up a younger sister and her child, who was in first-year elementary school. The brother-in-law asked them if there was a place they would like to visit before returning home. The religious sister, whose  pastoral work was in a big city, without hesitating, said she would like to see the ocean. And 30 minutes later they arrived at a quiet spot on the ocean. A columnist of the Catholic Times would like us to reflect on what the Sister learned on her trip to the ocean.
Leaving the car, they went down to where the ocean waves were breaking onto the shore. The Sister, forgetting the often troubling encounters with the people she was counseling, and her tiredness, felt her breathing slowly deepen and the cares of the day lift, as she began to enjoy the new surroundings. The child had picked up some pebbles and ran to his aunt to show her what he had found: a dolphin, a smiling ghost and a chestnut. He explained each one with great enthusiasm. To the child they were not only pebbles but something more. The aunt, moved by his enthusiasm, went looking for differently shaped pebbles, like those her nephew had found, but all she was able to see were large and small  pebbles. She realized it was not because she didn't have an imagination but because she was accustomed to seeing the real thing: a butterfly was a butterfly, a dolphin was a dolphin. The objective reality was all she could accept. What was seen had to match the fixed idea in her head.

The child's uncluttered mind and lively imagination, however, was able to see all kinds of shapes and images, while the aunt was not open to these images because of her fixation on what was real.

This kind of thinking, the columnist believes, is indicative of the way we relate with others. People we judge good, for instance, make us feel comfortable and secure, and we consider them helpful to us. With our fixed ideas we make quick judgements on those who lack what we deem important and not helpful, putting them aside as not deserving much interest or attention. The fact is, the columnist says, many of these supposedly unhelpful people would have been of great help to us.

With a little concern for spotting the gifts these people have, and giving them more respect, support and encouragement, they would have developed, he says, into different persons, more helpful persons, if we had  stretched out our hands to them. Before God we are all imperfect and weak, but God does not disregard us. Nor does he see us as immature, a mistake, or incapable of great things. God sees us not only as we are but as the person we can become. Like the child,
God   sees  the possibilities, the hope that is in us,  and rejoices.

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