When I was growing up, my high school girlfriend down the street lived in a house
where all the furniture was covered with hard plastic covers, where all visitors
were expected to remove their shoes upon entering the home, and where EVERYTHING
in the formal dining room–the table, crystal, china, goldware and napkins (already
placed, in anticipation of the next formal occasion)– was covered by white bedsheets.
Virtually everything in the house seemed like it was in some degree of archival
preservation, more like a museum display than a home where actual people lived.
The family was, perhaps not surprisingly, not a close unit of loving people: their
lives didn’t seem to come into contact with each others’ hearts any more than their
butts came in contact with the furniture. Everything seemed focused on external
appearances. The whole house was waiting for a special occasion in the future when
life would be so grand, elegant and exciting so as to make the drab days that preceded
them fade into oblivion.
On the one hand, maybe this is part of being human. We like to save special things
for special occasions, but if taken to extremes, this might result in putting our
lives on hold forever, while we wait for an occasion or person or opportunity that
is worthy of bringing out the best we have to offer. This is true when it comes
to offering our best to God as well: sometimes we are tempted to think that we will
be generous with our volunteering “someday”, once we retire and have more time,
or we tell ourselves that we will be able to tithe more to our parish “someday”
when the kids are grown and gone, or when the mortgage is paid, or once we pay for
our son’s college, etc…. A lot of opportunities to do significant good are missed
because those “somedays'” never seem to materialize: there are always going to be
challenges, responsibilities and other distractions that keep us from using whatever
constitutes our “best” in the here and now.
So, I have to wonder what my life would look like if I wore my most stylish clothes
to eat a four star meal in my own home on a random Tuesday, seated at the formal
dining table, using Grandma’s china and the antique crystal stemware? Would this
somehow diminish my family celebration of Easter and Christmas? Or would it help
me remember that every day I am alive is worthy of celebration? Mightn’t it help
me remember that I am a son of God, and therefore worthy of a feast every day?
I’ve noticed that when I prepare a special holiday meal and sit down to eat it,
I behave differently. I am more fully conscious of how the food tastes, how the
various components work together ,how the smells and mouth feel intensify the experience, and how even the table linens and napkins contribute a texture and sensual feel so often missing from my typical weekday meals–generally eaten on the sofa while
watching the evening news in boxers and tee-shirt.
No question about it: there are numberless opportunities for gritty grace in the
humdrum of the typical. Ministry is all about being open to interruption by dirty
kids, mismatched socks and people who are wearing less and doing less than their
best. But ministry without grace is fruitless and dishonest. The awareness of God’s
blessings and abundance is key to perceiving and accepting even more of those very
things. The ministry of every baptized person is dependent on this kind of grace.
If we are going to continually withhold the best blessings from the experience of
our lives, how will we ever be able to offer those very things back to the God who
has blessed us with all these thngs in the first place??
So, here’s a suggestion: remove the plastic from the furniture, walk with dirty
shoes on the carpet, get out Grandma’s china and light the silver candlesticks on
the formal dining table while you eat your leftover Hamburger Helper. Do it today!
Remove all that shields you from being more fully conscious of the grace and amazing
beauty that is inherent in every moment of life. If there are things you’re saving
for a special occasion-a new pair of killer stiletto heels, your mother’s antique
table linens, a special bottle of wine you bought on vacation–consider taking them
out of their hiding places and putting them to use this week. Life is for living
in the now, and the mere fact that you are alive in this moment is cause enough
to celebrate God’s bounty in your life. And if you do happen to open that bottle
of wine, don’t forget to call your pastor whose always looking for a reason to celebrate
the miracle at Cana! I promise to dress appropriately.
Wishing you abundance and blessings,
Mass of Thanksgiving on Saturday, October 26, 2013, featuring the music of the Jaenicke
Consort, Greg Childs, Daniel Headley and the Holy Redeemer choir. Mass is at 5:00
pm, followed by dinner at Durnell’s on Broadway.
Dinner tickets will be available at the restaurant for $10 per adult, $5 per child
under the age of 12.
Invite a friends or family members and show them what an amazing parish we are building!