Thursday 19 April 2012

Doing little things with Great Love

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

How do we experience God’s Will for us? Many struggle with this question. We think we know what God wants, or maybe we confuse that with what we want. Either way, it seems that the struggle to know God’s Will is always part of our lives: “ What does the Divine and Infinite Lover want me to do with my life?”

This past week, a homily at the Newman Centre, a Catholic chaplaincy at the University of Toronto, put things into perspective for me and brought me back to St Therese of Lisieux. The priest contemplated and explored the struggle to know God’s Will by simply saying, “God wants you to be wherever you are, to do whatever you can with love, and in service to others.” I’m slowly getting this lesson!

St Therese and her “little ways” are such an amazing starting point in my efforts to appropriate this lesson. As I carry on my journey of faith, I see the saints less as people I’m supposed to emulate, and more like friends I admire and can learn something from. From Therese, I have learned what it means to be present to the small things that I can do in order to shed the light of God in the lives of others, and to receive that light from others.

There are 2 examples of the small things I can do in my life to serve others and come closer to God that strike me. The first has to do with how I read of Scripture passages during Mass. The Bible is a living book and it must be proclaimed with the reverence it deserves. This past week, I was asked to read during a weekday Mass at the Newman Centre. It was a prayer experience reading from the lovely passage from the Acts of the Apostles. After mass, I was approached by four different people telling me that they had never paid this much attention to a scripture reading. I was touched. If I can help people ponder the Word of God with my zeal for its power, then thanks be to God!

The second small thing revolves around my sister, Anne Marie. She died at age 32 in 2008 after a 10 yearlong battle with cancer. In her last few months in this world, each one of us in the family spent ample time with her. The most memorable moment for me was Christmas Eve 2007. That night, I was planning to go visit her before going to Notre Basilica for Midnight mass. It was the first time in my life that we didn’t have a Christmas Eve celebration as a family, so I was excited about finally being able to go to the Basilica to hear Minuit Chretien – the French and original version of O Holy Night – in one of the most sacred spaces in Montreal.

I first went to the hospital where I was received by Keith, my sister’s fiancé, and the biggest smile in the world from my sister. That was her little way. She knew how to bring light and hope in people’s lives even when she herself was at her worse. However, she spent much of the time of my visit sleeping, so I spent most of my time with Keith. We chatted for hours, so much that I realized that this was where God wanted me to experience power of Christmas. Keith and I needed to spend time together with Anne Marie. As my spiritual director at the time would put, I had my own experience of the Christ in the world that night. And I did so little.

This to me is the greatest mystery of all. In the end, we do not especially discover God’s Will for us with big gestures of piety or big actions that impact the world, but with small gestures of love, and our quiet presence that lovingly affects one person at the time and reveals to our hearts the places where God wants us to surrender to His Great Love in our little ways.

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