Saturday, July 15, 2017



Yesterday I received a small package from a woman named Aline, with whom I’ve corresponded once or twice; I’d sent her a copy of one of my books. In the package was a book, the collected poems of Karol Wojtyla. Enclosed was a thank you card, on the back of which she had written:

“Good morning!
I was up at dawn today
As God was doing cloud assignments --
One to go; one to stay!
They followed gracefully.
If only we were willing to respond gracefully,
Wouldn’t our days unfurl
Graciously, reassuringly?

Someone will say that clouds are not persons, they don’t have free will, and so they have no choice but to obey the Cloud-Maker, and so of course the cloud formation was just as God wanted it. But the poet knows that we are not clouds: she says, the clouds “followed gracefully,” but in the next line she says, “If only we were willing to respond gracefully” -- only persons with free will can be “willing” and “respond.”  There’s our glory: clouds can do nothing but follow, while we can make a free, loving choice to respond willingly to the Lord’s request, the Lord’s “assignments.”

The gospel at mass that afternoon, part of the address of Jesus to his apostles as he sent them out on mission, included these verses:

“Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt. 10:19-20)

All of us are apostles, sent out as part of our Baptismal vocation, to bring the Good News to people around us. And Jesus tells us, “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” That’s a sobering thought: Whenever I speak, it better be the Loving Father speaking through me. Words of insult or vengeance or untruth are surely not what Jesus expects me, his apostle, to be spreading around the world. I have to develop the habit of evaluating my words with the criterion Jesus gives me, “For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”


The Gospel at mass on Sunday, July 16, tells the parable of the sower and the seeds that yield varying amounts at harvest, “a hundred or sixty or thirty fold (Mt. 13:9). As I meditated on this earlier in the week, I realized, uneasily, that with all the talents the Lord has given me, and all the loving people he has put into my life, and all the times he has protected me from evil, He must certainly be expecting me to produce a hundredfold, rather than just thirty or sixty. My response to that insight was one un-scriptural word: “Yikes!”


When the Lord assigns me something to do, He’s counting on my free, willing response. Often the assignment is the same as the one Jesus gave to his apostles, namely, to ;et the Spirit of the Father speak through me. To paraphrase my friend’s poem,
“If only I were willing to respond gracefully,
Wouldn’t my days unfurl

Graciously, reassuringly?”

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