Endings and Beginnings

In the December issue of Impact, we will reflect on endings and beginnings, and how the season of Advent invites us to think about the way our faith has affected our life in the past year. What is the impact of faith in your life? What is the greatest challenge to living as a faith-filled person in today's world? Who or what helps you to do so the most? We would love to hear your thoughts. We will share (with your first name only) here as we learn from and inspire one another to live our faith deeply in the coming year.

Check out our new Everyday Impact page on Facebook: facebook.com/faithimpactslife

God is in the bits and pieces of everyday

Sometimes it is so easy to be grateful; other times it is more of a struggle. I am writing this on holiday, in Iceland, surrounded by beautiful scenery and sharing the awe of this exceptional landscape with two friends. As the students I teach would say ‘what's not to like’. Gratitude comes easily. I am surrounded by gifts from God, in people and in places, so gratitude is my only response. But it is not always this simple and our lives are not always this calm. What about the hard days when we feel unappreciated by work colleagues or unsupported by friends. How can I be grateful then? What about the days when the things we have, see and need to do don’t feel like gifts from God. What about when we are ill or those around us receive news that is unexpectedly bad? 

I take solace in the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh who, in his poem ‘The Great Hunger’, states that ‘God is in the bits and pieces of everyday’. Perhaps I need to look in the unexpected places, in the small and seemingly insignificant parts of my day, to see that God has given me unexpected gifts for which I am grateful; courage in diversity, a smile offered, a kindness given or accepted. -- Teresa Keogh, Becoming Grateful Disciples

The steward as servant, and servant leader

There are so many ways in which growing as a steward impacts our lives. As we grow in awareness of our blessings, we also become more grateful for them. Gratitude leads us to share with others, and doing so has an impact on those who receive what we give, as well as touching us as we give. 

There is something else for us to think about as we consider our lives as stewards, and that is our call to lead, using our talents and gifts, time, and resources in a way that positively impacts those with whom we interact. All of us are leaders in one way or another. We lead at home, as we call each other to live and grow as good and holy people within our families; we lead at work, as we interact with others and contribute to the tasks at hand; we lead within our parishes, as we serve and grow in ministry and mission. 

Recently, I was reading a Scripture commentary by the Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, and I came across this explanation of Luke 12:32-48, in which Jesus tells us we should be ready for his return, like the servants who await the return of the master:

“The role of the household manager or steward is well fitted to Luke’s understanding of authority in the community. His role was to direct the affairs of the other slaves, to see they did their work, but also to serve their needs. The steward was answerable (in fidelity) to the master who appointed him, as well as answerable (in fidelity) to the other slaves. He could not be faithful to one while being abusive to the other.

Once more, the image of authority is one of service to others. Yes, this applies in a special way to the Twelve as leaders of the restored Israel. Whereas all the servants were to stand in readiness for their master, and do their work in a pleasing fashion, the leaders are responsible not only for their work but also for the work of the community as a whole. If they do their work well, they will receive the reward of still greater authority. But if they abuse their privilege, they will be cut off completely.” (Sacra Pagina, p. 206)

We are all called to be servant leaders! We are responsible to God and to one another. Our actions and interactions with one another have sacred, holy implications, and lead to lasting impact.

 

"I belong to God, and..."

Many years ago, we used a video at parish meetings of Elinor Ford giving a talk in which she said, "I belong to God, and God needs me." Don't get me (or Elinor) wrong here... we do not believe in a manipulative God who "needs" our affection or attention. Yet, on a deep level, Elinor spoke to the power of the Incarnation and who we are called to be as Christian disciples. We are called to carry out Christ's mission of love, mercy, and compassion, through the ways in which we live our daily lives. The ways in which the world will know God's love is dependent upon each person's acceptance of the call to live and share this love with others.

I have thought of this often in the past week. We have opportunities every day to spread love, share compassion, offer mercy. We can, and must, live out our baptismal call to be prophets -- to announce God's reign here on earth, and to share the Good News of Christ's undying, sacrificial, saving love through our actions. In fact, we are to live as resurrection people who give of ourselves in order that others might fully live. 

What does this "look like" in daily life? It will be different for each of us, as each has been given particular gifts and talents, life circumstances, and opportunities. What I have not been able to shake in the past week and a half is that many of us, perhaps most of us, get into a pattern of life that ends up being quite comfortable, rather than really discerning on a regular basis who and Whose we are, and what we are called to do with our lives. Even when that means letting go of comfort in order to make a difference in someone's life, for the life of the world. 

I have been praying with Elinor's declaration: I belong to God, and God needs me. What does God need you to do? Only you can discern that, with the help of family, friends, and your faith community. What an impact we might have if we take this to heart. 

Everyday Impact

What is the everyday impact of faith in our lives? This is the focus of this new blog project that I and a group of my friends will be sharing here. It seems a straightforward question, except we all know it isn't exactly. On days like today, when we see the face of evil and hatred in our country, we have to think about how we may respond as people of faith in our everyday lives. As witnesses to the power of love. As people who stand together, strong in the certainty that love is stronger than hate; vulnerable in the understanding that such love calls us to sacrifice, to give without counting the cost, to bear the light of Christ even when, especially when, much of what surrounds us is not light. 

Many of us heard of Elijah's encounter with God in the tiny, whispering sound in the reading from 1 Kings (19:9a, 11-13a) yesterday. Jesus called to Peter to come to him, in the midst of the storm. (MT 14:22-33) For a moment, with his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter walked on water. Like Elijah and Peter, we rely on the strength of the power of God, who instills in us the certainty that we are not alone, love will win out. Not only is this our conviction, it is our mission -- to bear this immense love through our actions, decisions, words, and interactions with others.

What is the everyday impact of faith in your life, today, tomorrow, and into the future? Each of us will respond to that question somewhat differently. As followers of Jesus Christ, we know the response may not always be simple or easy. Our response today will be different than it will be tomorrow, as the circumstances of our lives and the life of the people around us, in our family, parish, city, and world change. Ultimately, there is one answer to all of this. That answer is Jesus Christ, who is our way, truth, and life. Our response is, in the end, must be straightforward. Our response must be YES, to commit ourselves to being people of Christ, everyday.