A Daily Reflection
by Deacon Kevin Heim

Monday, May 18th

Today is the Monday of the ???th* week of the siege by the virus SAR-Cov-2 and its partner in crime – Covid-19. Nothing is as it was, or is it? That is a question that keeps coming back with every newscast and bulletin. The sun shines, the rain falls, and life goes on. One good thing I have had time for is to catch up on my reading (I have a stack of literature – and possibly a flash drive or two – I had always intended to process).

One of those was a small book, written by a Benedictine nun from Mount Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. The thoughts came from the notebook she kept as she learned the skills needed to tend to the abbey’s vineyard. Since in the Catholic culture, not only misery loves company, but also joy, gladness, peace, and consolation, and since nothing is “normal” any more, I want to share one of her bits of wisdom which reminds us of where we strive to be:

“We can never be sure of what the harvest will be until it has happened. Sometimes the greatest gifts or the most powerful lessons aren’t the ones we initially thought they would be. Most of us have had a difficult experience that we later realize taught us something very valuable. Most of us have performed a task, though it seemed boring or irrelevant at the time, ultimately gave us a skill that was significant at some later time in another circumstance. Life is full of unexpected surprises. Many have had that experience of a family vacation to see some spectacular sight that everyone expected to be the highlight of the trip. Then something extraordinary happens and forever after, nobody talks about the Grand Canyon but about the funny thing that happened in the motel. This moment becomes the real bond because it is unusual and unforeseen; it gives the family a moment, a memory, and shared emotions that are uniquely theirs.

Every journey, and the whole journey of life, is filled with these unexpected twists and turns. No matter how many are the gifts we recognize, there are always more gifts being showered on us. No matter what we see and experience, we can find more in life about which to be excited. We come to appreciate that everything is a gift.

When I was a child, my aunt lived with us. I would often keep an eye toward the bus stop down the street to await her arrival from her exhausting factory job, I was especially attentive on Fridays. After cashing her paycheck, she would go to the dime store and buy us a small bag of candy or nuts. Almost every adult who has ever been greeted by a waiting child has heard the question I would ask: ‘What did you bring me?’

Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’ve never outgrown that question. I seem to keep asking it of my loved ones and of life and of God. I always seem to want more; everything always seems primarily about me and what I will gain from it. I realize now that the real answer to the question of what my aunt brought me was not “a bag of cashews.” What she brought me was far more valuable. I learned that I could trust in her love even on days when she didn’t bring me a treat. I learned that just seeing her approach and running into her arms was itself a treat. I believe she got delight from my delight when she handed me the bag, and I could feel that coming from her as well. I knew even then that I did not value her just for what she brought me, nor did I feel there was something wrong with me or that her love was withdrawn when she came home empty-handed. This is knowledge I know I should transfer to the other relationships where I am still asking the question.

Even better than the Friday ritual are the unexpected treats of life. A gift for no particular occasion, a note of love or gratitude, an unexpected opportunity, can bring a very special joy. If we keep alert, we will see beautiful surprise packages left for us in so many places for no particular reason. Life can be like an endless harvest, where there is something around every corner and under every leaf if one looks hard enough to see it where others went hastily by. A life of gratitude provides an unending source of joy.” Judith Sutera, The Vinedresser’s Notebook-Spiritual Lessons in Pruning, Waiting, Harvesting & Abundance, Abingdon Press

I pray each of you find the strength, joy, and peace that only Jesus can give. Stay well!

(the * marked date was to remind me that time really does not matter in eternity – this too shall pass)

What I had originally planned for today follows:

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We spent some time in that city. On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.
In 2018, Rhonda and I had the opportunity to stand on the spot (picture above) where tradition says Lydia and her household were baptized, as a stop on the “In the Footsteps of Paul” tour. Of course, the spot no longer looks like it did in her time – not even what it looked like twenty years ago according to the local history. Yet there is a sense of deep faith and history about the site.

Thyatira was a wealthy city, known to produce purple cloth, a luxury only the richest could afford. At the time Paul met Lydia, she would likely have been rather wealthy herself.

Today’s reading gives us a look at the power of truth and the grace of Baptism. You never know just where that grace will lead you. Later in Acts, Lydia of Thyatira will again appear as a foundress of the church at Philippi.

Not all are called through the sacraments to give up all, move to another location, and give everything in the pursuit of our faith. We are called to do what we are able to do to help each other on our journey to the reward promised by the Resurrection.

From a sermon by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, bishop
(Oratio 1 in Christi resurrectionem: Jaeger IX, 277-280, 305)

The firstborn of the new creation
The reign of life has begun, the tyranny of death is ended. A new birth has taken place, a new life has come, a new order of existence has appeared, our very nature has been transformed! This birth is not brought about by human generation, by the will of man, or by the desire of the flesh, but by God.

If you wonder how, I will explain in clear language. Faith is the womb that conceives this new life, baptism the rebirth by which it is brought forth into the light of day. The Church is its nurse; her teachings are its milk, the bread from heaven is its food. It is brought to maturity by the practice of virtue; it is wedded to wisdom; it gives birth to hope. Its home is the kingdom; its rich
inheritance the joys of paradise; its end, not death, but the blessed and everlasting life prepared for those who are worthy.

This is the day the Lord has made —a day far different from those made when the world was first created and which are measured by the passage of time. This is the beginning of a new creation. On this day, as the prophet says, God makes a new heaven and a new earth. What is this new heaven? you may ask. It is the firmament of our faith in Christ. What is the new earth? A good heart, a heart like the earth, which drinks up the rain that falls on it and yields a rich harvest.

In this new creation, purity of life is the sun, the virtues are the stars, transparent goodness is the air, and the depths of the riches of wisdom and knowledge , the sea. Sound doctrine, the divine teachings are the grass and plants that feed God’s flock, the people whom he shepherds; the keeping of the commandments is the fruit borne by the trees.

On this day is created the true man, the man made in the image and likeness of God. For this day the Lord has made is the beginning of this new world. Of this day the prophet says that it is not like other days, nor is this night like other nights. But still we have not spoken of the greatest gift it has brought us. This day destroyed the pangs of death and brought to birth the firstborn of the dead.

I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God . O what wonderful good news! He who for our sake became like us in order to make us his brothers, now presents to his true Father his own humanity in order to draw all his kindred up after him.

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