On my way up to the study to begin this writing, I stopped at the wall of family portraits which I pass on the way. Those pictured include my sons as toddlers, college graduates and grooms. As I considered the little boys-turned-men before me, I wondered how it happened that my older son Mike became a husband and then the father of three little girls. I went on to wonder how his younger brother Tim also became a husband and serves as uncle to his nieces.
As I perused the family photos further, my lingering sigh acknowledged my husband’s and my parents who have all passed away. Wasn’t it just last week when they celebrated the kids’ birthdays with us? So many years have passed since each one left us. My momentary grief became a chuckle as I gazed at our sons’ wedding photos which include their dad and me. It occurred to me that he and I are well past the ages our parents were on our wedding day. “How did that happen?” I asked again.
A shiny glimmer distracted me before I could lament the evidence of aging clearly displayed by our own wedding picture and the photos of us as parents of the grooms. This ray of light had traveled through the window and settled on the wing of one of a chorus of pewter angels which hang in the midst of our family pictures. With arms outstretched, this particular celestial being contentedly watches over my loved ones. As I admired her, she seemed to beckon me a bit closer. When I complied, I remembered that this particular angel is my favorite because the string of words carved into her sash quote Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her tiny sash reads, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love…”
With that bit of truth in mind, I finally climbed the stairs to the study. I could not help considering the difference a few days make. Indeed, a single moment makes all of the difference in the world. One moment we are newlyweds. Not many moments later, we are parents. One moment, our child enters kindergarten. The next moment, he is off to college. One moment, we seek advice from our much wiser mom. The next moment, we sit at her bedside at the end of her life. A few moments here, a few moments there and a few moments here again mark the time between our births and passing. All the while, the significance of each day, hour and moment depends upon what we choose to do and what we choose not to do with them. This significance is enhanced, just as Mother Teresa tells us, not by the greatness or smallness of our deeds, but by the love with which we perform them.
As I write, the significance of every moment of our lives becomes crystal clear. I realize that every moment of my past -the good and the bad- made possible each of the photos on our wall. I also realize the value of my future which is filled with uncharted waters. Most importantly, I realize the value of the present moment –God’s greatest gift to each one of us– which requires my undivided attention and my love. Within this very moment, I can choose to do or not to do the things to which God calls me. Mother Teresa’s words simply underscore Jesus’ challenge from long ago.
In all that he said and did, Jesus acknowledged that, in spite of our smallness, we can accomplish much, if only we commit ourselves to doing so. In Luke’s gospel (9:51-62), Jesus appeared harsh when he rebuked those who said they wished to follow him but then listed the things they needed to do beforehand. Jesus scolded them because they had not yet come to see that, to follow Jesus, they needed to bring God’s love into every moment. If they buried their dead and tended to their farms with God’s love, they followed Jesus. The same is true for us. Though you and I will likely never minister to the poor in the streets of Galilee as Jesus did nor in the streets of Calcutta as Mother Teresa did, we can serve those we meet along the way with love. Perhaps Jesus seems inpatient because he knows the joy to be found in love-filled moments and he wants nothing more than for us to know the same.
©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved