In today’s responsorial psalm we sing:
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
Today’s Gospel relates to us an event that in one way exhorts us to trust in the Lord to give us what we truly need. To give absolute trust to the God who loves us better than we love ourselves.
But sometimes it is just very hard to appreciate what that means in real life. As creatures we very often need examples to reinforce us in our journey. Blessed John Paul the Great realized this and hastened the raising of these examples to the altar of sainthood. He gave us modern examples of living a life centered in Christ. His hope was that by these official examples we could find those around us who, though not recognized publicly, were living that life as well; and they could help us become like them.
Last night at a picnic I met a man in his late 70s; a devout Catholic with a crusty vocabulary. The party was at his son’s house and all around us friends and former workers of his son were celebrating their first time to get together in years. They were reminiscing, kidding around and talking about the future just like anyone does at these types of things – but at its core it was about the here and now – the joy of the moment.
Well, at this table on the other side of the deck, with the sounds of this get-together drifting in, this man told me about his life. He started by telling me that his wife had died about a year ago from alzheimer’s, and it sounded like it was a prolonged battle. I was amazed at the tenderness that he showed in relating his time during her illness – love-absolute I thought. And it was obvious that though the loss of his wife pained him – the joy of their life together far outweighed that pain.
Then he explained to me how he met his wife; and how, when during their dating, they had discussed how many kids they wanted – both wanted a dozen. It seems they both liked the movie ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ – “The Warren Cliff version” he said (which was made in 1950). He told me that their first child had died right after birth. He explained that he told his wife that maybe God didn’t intend for them to have children, at least yet. They discussed their other dreams of a new house and new car and agreed that if God wanted them to have children that maybe later they would. He went on to tell me about the 14 pregnancies and yes the 12 beautiful children they raised. He talked about some of the struggles and successes that they had during their life. He told me about his job through the eyes of his family. His whole life revolved around his wife and his children and it seemed to me that it was his joy to bring them as good a life as he could; after all they brought him joy. Towards the end of telling his story he leaned towards me and with a knowing smile he said “you know recently we finally got to see the slab poured and the completion of our first new home, and we finally got our first new car – God didn’t forget us ever. I couldn’t have had a better life”
One of the communion antiphons for today goes like this:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and never forget all his benefits”
Last night I met a man who did just that.