Posted by: mmreflections | April 9, 2011

Vigilant and Faithful Servants! April 2011

“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.  You also must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Confer Luke 12:35-40)

At some point in our lives many of us question the value of our life, our vocation and purpose for being on this earth.  We are tempted to view external circumstances and to view our lives and efforts as meaningless.  In my very first assignment after ordination, when the glow of ordination had passed and I was caught up in the ordinary demands required of an assistant pastor, I found myself in just this mode: questioning my decision to become a priest.  My idealism as to what I might accomplish was diminishing as routine demands took over my life.  My focus was all about what I had to do with the talents and gifts God had given me.  I had still not learned what it was to be an instrument in God’s hands.

It was with this dark cloud over my head that one evening I went to visit a priest friend in a nearby parish to talk about the discouragement and disillusionment bombarding me.  It was getting dark outside as I said goodbye to my friend and headed back to the rectory still feeling depressed and sad.  I chose not to take the shortest way home on the freeway but the longest way home on the surface roads.  A few miles down the road, as I approached a major freeway intersection, I was met with flashing red lights, police cars and a serious accident.  I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of the car and walked over to a police officer to ask if there was something I could do.   

There was a crowd of people gathering around the horrific scene, among them a man shouting he was a pastor and wanted to approach but was being held back by another officer.  When the police officer saw me and recognized I was a priest he quickly took me over to the panic stricken victim who was laying beside the overturned vehicle. I knelt down on the ground beside this young man who was still conscious but very seriously injured.  I took hold of his hand and asked if I could pray with him.  He pleaded with me to pray and to stay with him.  As we waited for an ambulance to arrive, he calmed down but refused to let go of me as though I was his life-line.  When the emergency crew arrived he still hung on to me as they placed him on  a stretcher and carried him to the ambulance.  He lapsed into unconsciousness just as I promised him I would come to the hospital to see him.

When the ambulance pulled away and I was walking back to the car the police officer stopped me and thanked me for helping to calm the injured young man down.  Something unusual unfolded as I drove away and headed on home.  The depression I had been experiencing just a little while earlier had lifted.  I saw the stars in the sky that I had not noticed for a long time.  I learned an important lesson that night which would sustain me for the rest of my life.  It is not what I do but what God does with me if I allow him to use me as his instrument.  Over the years I have recalled that lonely night especially when I find myself getting into a slump over my failures and forgetting I am only called to be a vigilant and faithful servant in God’s hands.

I visited that young man, who turned out to  be a great blessing for me, at the hospital many times after that accident.  He was very badly injured in the accident and would have to undergo major physical therapy after the casts were removed.  He related how he was responsible for the accident and all that had happened to him because  he had been speeding on the freeway and lost control of his car.  He also very sadly told me that no one other than myself ever came to visit him. I was eventually transferred to another parish and lost contact with him.  His life turned around as a result of what happened that night.  So did mine!

I don’t believe we need to be wearing priestly garb to be vigilant and faithful servants, instruments in God’s hands.  Opportunities are constantly presenting themselves for us to be the children he created us to be.  Just recently while shopping at Walmart an incident occurred at the check-out counter.  Not unusual for me I chose the shortest check-out line only to find that the person in front of me had a handful of coupons to help with his purchases.  Some coupons were outdated and there seemed to be a lengthy discussion over each one until he received every credit he could possibly get.  The process took a very long time and the check-out woman was obviously getting distressed as she struggled to remain calm and polite.  As my turn came her head was lowered and she did not greet me with the customary greeting.  I noticed her name tag and calling her by name I smiled and commented about how kind and patient she was in handling the previous customer.  She looked up at me, smiled and quickly went on to tell me how she had to constantly battle with panic attacks.  The recent, sudden and unexpected death of her father had stirred up this problem and she feared losing her job were this to happen at work.  I was not wearing any priestly garb and was surprised to see how easily she opened up to me simply because of a kind word.  As I gathered up my bags, she grabbed my hand to say thank you for what I had done for her.  Could this be how we become instruments in God’s hands?

Oftentimes we hear others put themselves down because they feel they have no talents or gifts.  This is a surefire way to get ourselves down in the dumps.  When we start feeling this way it is, more often than not, the result of thinking of ourselves as unimportant.  We fail to see how we could possibly be used for any good purpose.  We also view little things done for others as insignificant in the grand scale of life.   In this way we fail to be vigilant and faithful servants.

There is another side of the coin.  Some feel  they are so talented and gifted that their only purpose is to do great things in the eyes of others.  When their good works are not noticed,  they become discouraged and troubled.  Often they are unwilling to do the little things that count the most and are insensitive to the needs of others, thus failing to be the vigilant and faithful servants who could be wonderful instruments in God’s hands.

When Jesus tells the story of a man who fell victim to robbers who beat him and went off leaving him half dead, he gives us as example of a vigilant and faithful servant.  A priest goes by and sees the man laying there but  he passes by on the other side of the road.  The priest is a talented and gifted person who should have known better. However, he was obviously not paying attention to the needs of someone who was suffering.  On the other hand a man who is not highly regarded by others comes along and is moved with compassion.  He is paying attention.  He approaches the victim, tends to his wounds, takes care of him in every way possible before leaving him in the hands of others who will continue to care for him. (Luke 10:29-39)  We are told to “go and do likewise.”  If we are vigilant and faithful we will also be attentive to the opportunities that arise when we can be servants in little ways or greater ways.

 “Whoever brings sunshine into the life of another, will always have sunshine in their own lives.”

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Responses

  1. Thank You Fr. Mike
    You just confirmed something for me. Always your words of Wisdom help me in time when I am a little doubtful
    God Bless You

  2. Dear Father Mike,
    Your examples provided a great practical lesson for me, as well as insight into that Bible passage. Thank you for sharing your message. I greatly appreciate the good works that you are doing!
    Michael

  3. Father Mike, as a graduate of 35 years in Fire and Life Safety, I felt I could almost relate to your examples. Father, you certainly have a talent for sharing your many and varied services to society and of course, The Church. As they say–“You must have seen it all.” Remarkable–You could/should write a book. Charlie K.

  4. Father Mike,

    This reflection especially touched me. I think the timing was just perfect. As the expression goes, “Thanks, I needed that.” So beautifully and sincerely written, I appreciate every word and the time involved.
    Truly inspirational.
    Have a beautiful day!

    Andrea


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