Reflection given at Hillhaven Nursing Home in Silver Spring, Maryland (04-27-17)When I was a little boy, my Dad and I used to go out in our backyard with our telescope and look up at the stars in the night sky. It was so beautiful! I still do that sometimes, when I can. I would always watch movies and shows on television about the stars, the planets, the moon and the whole universe. And I don’t know about you, but I always had a hard time thinking about all of these things that are so much bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced or seen with my own eyes!
When we are children, everything seems so big. Even now, it feels like our world is so big, there’s so many people, so many places, so much stuff! And when we look up at the stars, they seem so small, like little push-pins in the night sky. From our point of view, everything on earth looks big, and everything in the sky looks small. But maybe God is asking us to consider looking at everything from a different perspective.
Now, in the Scriptures, we find John the Baptist saying “he must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30) - talking about Jesus - or we could say “he must become bigger, and I must become smaller.” The more we let Jesus increase in our lives, the more we become the people God wants us to be. But to let God work, become bigger and increase in our lives, God is asking us to be obedient, just as Peter says in his letter to the Jewish leaders. What did Peter mean by “being obedient?”
Well, there is a story about St. Francis of Assisi. One time, he took some the brothers who had just joined him out into a garden and gave each of them a turnip. He said, “I want you to dig a hole,” and they all dug a hole. Then he said, “Now I want you to put the turnip in the ground with the green part down and the point sticking up.” One of these brothers spoke up and said, “Brother Francis, everyone knows that you don’t put a turnip in with the green part down.” And Francis said, “This wasn’t a test of whether you understood gardening; this was a test of your obedience.” So Francis sent him home because there was no room for a brother who could not be obedient to his other brothers. He was trying to teach this new brother the meaning of obedience.
So when we listen and obey the words Jesus gave us, the Gospel tells us that we look at everything differently. It’s like walking around a big city like New York City where everything seems so big, but when you get on an airplane and you look down at it, that big city looks very, very small. And when God gives us that new and different perspective - then we start to know what the Gospel meant when it talked about “the one who comes from above is above all.” But you know what? God is very big but he made himself very small to live with us and be one of us.
All our lives we try to be big. We want to grow up. We want to have a bigger home, a bigger job, a bigger impact. There is something inside of us that makes us want to be BIGGER AND BETTER. And that’s good. But how? What’s the right way? What’s the Gospel way? Well, if we ask Jesus, the one who came from above and also lived here below with us, and we listen and obey Jesus, he told us what to do: be small. Be humble and you will be great!
May the Lord give you peace.