Love’s Little Things Save Our Life

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Anyone close to a member of the greatest generation has heard the lecture. How as a child they walked to and from school uphill both ways. How, during the Great Depression, they ate scraps they scrounged themselves—and liked it. How they worked several jobs to make ends meet. Aside from the uphill both ways thing, these statements were not hyperbole.  In fact they sound a bit like what Paul told the Thessalonians in this Sunday’s second reading (2 Thes 3:7-12):

We worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.

As our last surviving role models who faced down the 20th Century’s toughest times approach their last days, they must be wondering what their earthly end will be like. And while we, their children and grandchildren, accompany them as they prepare for their soul’s transition from this life, we can’t help but consider our own transitions. We live in tumultuous times, after all, that often make us feel like EVERYONE’s time is up.  

This Sunday’s gospel reading offers a set of instructions freeing us from any responsibility other than maintaining our faith and leaving the rest to God (Lk 21:5-19). That’s not as easy as it sounds, because it requires a faith that’s ironclad amidst headlines proclaiming looming nuclear and environmental disaster. Don’t buy into the hype, Jesus tells his disciples—and us.

“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ … When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end. … By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

People among us are persevering in doing heroic things, trying to save us from ourselves. Their grand accomplishments can make the rest of us feel small and powerless by comparison, as Jesus’s own disciples must have felt when witnessing their Master’s great miracles. But when the faithless among us challenge us to defend the smallest faith to which we cling despite all hell breaking loose, Jesus reassures us:

I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.

The best example of such great wisdom contained in a tiny dispenser is St. Therese of Lisieux – lovingly known as “The Little Flower.” In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, she reassures us,

Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. … Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love. … Love alone have I ever given to the good God; with love He will repay me.”

Such love will give us the power to commute both ways uphill between the home of our heart and this school called life.

–Tom Andel

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