Posted by: mmreflections | January 15, 2011

Pieces of the Puzzle: January 2011

“I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind.  Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” (Joel 3:1-2)

As we embark on this new year many of us are faced with anxieties, fears and apprehension about what the future holds for the world, our nation, our churches, our families and our personal lives.  If we are not careful about our way of thinking and of how we perceive events occurring in our personal lives and in our society, we may easily lose our peace of mind and joy of heart.  In reflecting upon events surrounding us and situations unfolding before our eyes, I find myself taking a second look at many of the unexpected gifts that came to me over my life’s journey which I did not recognize as gifts until these senior years when I view the almost completed tapestry of my life.  Some gifts came in the most painful and dark trials of my journey, other blessings unfolded because of the unexpected interest and concern of others.  At the time I did not realize that this was how the Holy One was pouring out the Spirit in and upon my life.  

When I was a student in high school my speech teacher, taking a great interest in me, spent much time coaching me, sharing with me little techniques about public speaking and giving me many opportunities to practice what I had been taught in various public forums.  At our high school we had a a very active Thespian Group, a great drama program which motivated students to take a interest in all aspects of the theatre.  It was at this time I was called upon to play the major role of the elder Pip in the Charles Dickens play, “Great Expectations”.  These productions at our high school were very professionally choreographed and the performances were public.  This story is about a young orphan boy, Pip, who befriends an escaped unjustly accused convict. Some years pass after that act of kindness when opportunities provided by an unknown benefactor come to Pip enabling him to move beyond his orphan status, get a good education and grow in integrity and maturity.

Without realizing the impact of this drama upon my life it seems that unconsciously something deep inside was motivating me to live my life with greater expectations.  Today I am able to review many parts of my life’s journey and understand how all that has happened along the way are pieces of the puzzle of my life that have brought me to where I am today.  The talented and gifted speech teacher did not realize she was preparing me for all the homilies I was to give over these forty eight years of priestly service.  My English and Literature professors had no idea I would become interested in philosophy and writing;  philosophy leading me to become interested in the priesthood and grammar preparing me for all the papers I would be writing.  Failures,  mistakes and shortcomings were to help me to be more compassionate and understanding of others.  Military experiences made clear I was not a fighter but a lover.  Even there my training as a staff member for the adjutant general prepared me to become a proficient typist and provided me with the talents needed to work under a great leader and to serve others.  Opportunities to travel around many parts of the world helped me to understand people of other nations, other religious and philosophical traditions, other cultures and in the process to realize we are all brothers and sisters.  It was this realization which prompted me to question what I could do to make our world a better place.  The challenges afforded me brought me to my knees in prayer seeking God’s will for my life, struggling to understand how all  that was happening, whether appearing good or bad, fit into my life.  “Why am I here?  What is life all about?  Why is there so much suffering in the world?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do so many good things come to people who hurt others and lack integrity?  Why do many who act unjustly continue to prosper and seem to have no problems?”  These are many of the questions arising within my own heart and are the questions of many good people seeking answers.  It seems we are caught up in a great mystery.  

As this new year begins to take shape, it is important for us to remember there is a power greater than we are guiding our lives.  We may not understand the reasons for the challenges we are facing.  We may not even recognize the blessings coming to us in the midst of trials and problems.  In order to live peacefully and even joyfully in the midst of all that is unfolding in our world today and in our personal lives, we need to recognize we are caught up in a greater plan than we can ever even begin to imagine. “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who have been called…  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:28, 31)  “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.”  (I Corinthians 2:9)

Given all we have learned, how then are we to live our lives in 2011?  We need to remember that though many, we are one family.  We each have gifts that differ.  We are all brothers and sisters.    How are we to use these gifts?  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans gives us good answers.  First of all our love for each other must be sincere.  We must detest what is evil, cling to what is good.  We must love one another with the affection of brothers and sisters.  We need to anticipate each other in showing respect.  We cannot grow slack but must remain fervent in spirit.  It is important we rejoice in hope for better times when life gets rough, being patient under trials, persevering in prayer.  It is most loving to look on the needs of others as our own, being generous in offering hospitality.  Let us learn to bless our persecutors, to bless and not curse them.  We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep.  It is a great blessing to have the same attitude toward all.  Our peace and joy will come with putting away ambitious thoughts and associating with those who are lowly. Let us not be wise in our own estimation.  We are never to repay injury with injury.  We must see that our conduct is honorable in the eyes of all.  If possible we are called to live peaceably with everyone.  Let us not avenge ourselves in any situation.  If our enemy is hungry,  let us feed him; if he is thirsty, let us give him something to drink.  Let us not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.   (Confer Romans 12:4-21)

At the beginning of any new year, many are inclined to consider resolutions on how to improve their lives for the future.  Not infrequently these resolutions are self-centered.  When I consider how my life has unfolded I realize that so many of my self-serving efforts have come to nothing.  On the other hand I realize that a power greater than I am has been at work in my life all along and that work has proven to be more fruitful than I could have ever imagined.  It might prove to be more beneficial if we begin this new year seeking to find ways to be of service to others and ways to make our world a better place.  This seems quite idealistic and some may think these are only dreams but then the Spirit says old men shall dream dreams.  Let us join together in manifesting God’s beauty, kindness and love to all whom we meet.  Let us join together with all those who are striving to make our world a better place.

 “Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.  Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk…”  (Hosea 14:10)

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Responses

  1. Dear Fr. Mike,
    How inspiring this one is. It reminded me of earlier disappointments and fears. But out of all the suffering I have done, it has made me more compasionate to others. When you have been thru bad times it is so easy to be able to help others with their problems. What I used to think of ‘curses’ from God turned out to be a ‘lesson learned’. God is very wise in His thinking when He sends you a trial. It is for you to learn from it and vow to help others. Please keep up these ‘reflections’. Somehow we learn that we are not alone in trials and disappointments. They have a way of teaching us life’s lessons and reach out to those who need us.
    God Bless you
    Kitty

  2. Truly, it is interesting how it all comes together. Without doubt, you and the office personnel were squeaking and squawking about the workload handed down by the Adjutant, and that was even before the IBM Selectric. Now, to see so many who are treated to your remarkable writing and speaking skills. Thank you Mr. Adjutant General—- Charlie K.

  3. I believe your gifts of writing and speaking are inspiring! I find your words bring to me peace and I always take my time reading all of your reflections. A happy and healthy New Year to you along with God’s peace. Your teachers had a great student and obviously they did a wonderful job.
    God bless you.

    Andrea

  4. Dear Father Mike,
    Thank you for such a thought-provoking message to start the new year! I read this posting last weekend and reflected on it during the week. Among other things, it allowed me to see how a few of the puzzle pieces in my life fit together.
    Michael

  5. Dear Fr. Mike,

    Thanks again for your wise words. All those years ago, when God placed us under your tutelage, then as now, your words still ring loudly in my ears. You spoke of joy, I have been reading Fr. Maloney’s book ‘That Your Joy May Be Complete’, your words are a confirmation of that. With my husbands illness and my own, sometimes I get really frustrated and short with him. How quickly then it comes to mind that I am missing out on the joy the God has in store for me because I have started fussing. Here lately I find myself in those moments saying ‘Little Flower’ help! God bless you Fr. Mike. We love you! rose


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