Two weeks ago, I arrived uncharacteristically early for Sunday Mass. As was the case for many of us, the May calendar hanging in our kitchen had been full. I hadn’t been early for anything in weeks. So it was that on that beautiful sunny morning I felt most grateful for those precious moments of leisurely prayer.
I took advantage of the opportunity by admitting to the Lord God that I had been engaged in a bout with crankiness. The reasons for my angst were justified. Worse yet, there was nothing I could do to change these things. As a result, I’d become frustrated and irritable. While the sun poured into church that May morning, I asked God to shower me with a bit of wisdom as well. I needed to refocus and to regroup. An attitude adjustment was also in order. Just a hint of assurance that these situations would improve to a tolerable level seemed almost too much to ask for in the grand scheme of things. Still, I prayed on. I had ended my prayer with hope for the best by the time the opening hymn was announced.
I normally enjoy singing and I was grateful that this particular selection was familiar. Knowing the lyrics helped me to sing on in spite of the distractions that gnawed at me. Afterward, as I replaced the hymnal in its rack, someone behind me whispered, “Wow!” and then giggled almost inaudibly. As we moved on with the liturgy, I glanced back and saw a smiling gentlemen. I smiled to myself as I responded to the Lord, Have Mercy. After the Gloria, I heard another “Wow!” accompanied by that little giggle. This happened again at the beginning of the gospel. Afterward, my pastor began his homily with the proclamation, “Beautiful day, short homily!” The man in the pew behind me responded this time with a giggle, another “Wow!” and another giggle. This “wow” was not unexpected as I assumed many of us were doing a mental “happy dance” in response. After all, the day was indeed gorgeous and in need our immediate attention!
As it happened, Father Ray’s words were to the point, to a very inspiring point which touched me deeply. When I looked heavenward to whisper a quiet “Thank you,” the man behind me offered another joyful “Wow!” And, yes, he giggled as well. It was then that it hit me: If I truly appreciated what I have, I would giggle and say “wow” at least as often as my happy friend had done that morning. After Mass, I thanked that cheerful worshiper for his inspiration. I explained that our encounter had to be in answer to my prayer because he’d certainly and unexpectedly lifted my spirit. I also told him that there was a good story in all of this, and indeed there is…
In today’s first reading (1 Kings 17:17-24), Elijah the Prophet is housed and fed by a poor widow and her son. In the midst of his stay, the boy becomes ill and dies. The frantic woman asks the prophet how he can be a man of God if he allows this. Fortunately, Elijah takes God’s love to heart and he begs the Almighty to restore the woman’s son which God does. In the second reading (Galatians 1:11-19), Paul tries to explain his preaching. He’d spent his career persecuting Jesus’ followers. Paul was a good man deeply committed to the traditions he’d been raised with. Only an otherworldly encounter with Jesus was able to open his heart to the loving God whom Jesus had preached. Afterward, Paul could not help sharing this good news with all who would listen. In the gospel (Luke 7:11-17), Jesus responds to a widow who has lost her son with the compassion of Elijah. Because he knows the depth of this woman’s sorrow better than she knows it herself, Jesus raises the young man and returns him to his mother. God’s compassion, that intimate knowledge of all that troubles us, compels Elijah, Paul and Jesus to comfort the rest of us as best they can.
I repeat often that God loves us, yet I sometimes forget this in the midst of my troubles. I write often that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Still, I feel alone in my sadness. I insist that God is aware of everything that happens because of us and to us. Nonetheless, I wring my hands as I wonder why God ignores me at such trying times. Then a man says “wow” and giggles a bit in church and God puts everything into perspective. If we appreciate all that we have, especially God’s absolute love for us, we will find something to elicit a “wow” and to make us giggle with joy in everything.
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