I once read a beautiful story about a woman who was very attractive. She received many compliments during her days. Graciously, she took each compliment and imagined it was a lovely rose. She envisioned putting each complimenting “flower” to her nose, luxuriating in its sweet scent. Next, she added the “flower” to a “bouquet” of the other “flowered” compliments, keeping them in her heart all day. In her night prayers at the end of each day, she spiritually presented the “bouquet” to God saying, “Here, I believe these belong to you.”
As a middle child, and a sanguine temperament, I revel in having an audience. My kids joke that I should have been an actor, speaking in movie lines and performing monologues in the kitchen for laughs, always seeking to entertain. My mom still tells the story of when we would go around the dinner table, taking turns sharing about our day I would really savor my turn (I tortured everyone by talking too much, basically). Being the third of four girls, I was excited to emulate my other sisters tell their interesting stories, even if I had nothing to share. I know all too well the mistake of letting my need for attention and praise get the better of me. It’s a prime battlefield in my spiritual life.
When I read this upcoming Sunday’s gospel, I can see myself in the bold shoes of James and John asking Jesus for “box seats” in heaven, as distasteful as it seems. They were rightfully scolded by the rest of the disciples for their presumptuous request. I know myself well enough to honestly imagine the excitement of being near Christ would get the better of me, and that middle child would jump up shouting “Me! Pick me! I want a seat next to you in Heaven!”
Jesus scolds the Pharisees in Luke 11:43 for wanting their places of honor at banquets and greetings in the marketplace, and then in Mark 10:40-45 he reminds the apostles that their purpose is to serve, not be served. As Christians, we imitate Christ in laying down our lives at the service of God and others, whether it is a sister in a religious order, a pastor of a church, or for our family members or friends, and even in praying for our enemies. In yesterday’s readings in the universal church, we read Paul telling Timothy (2 Tim) of how he was left by followers who deserted him for love of the world. However “enamored” we may be with the world and the praise and comfort it can give us, we must remember that it all comes back to the goodness of God.
I wouldn’t have a mouth to speak, an ear to hear, and the grace to understand anything if it weren’t for the love and goodness of God. We cannot take credit for anything but cooperation (and even that is sometimes not of our own strength). God gives us life; He gives us our circumstances, our parents and families who put food in our mouths; the opportunities and timing we need to succeed in making any kind of progress. Were you born? Do you live in a country where you can pray, write, speak freely? All from God. He gives us the inspiration, ideas and people who contribute to the coming together of His plan. He gives our hearts each beat and our lungs each breath. Absolutely NOTHING can be claimed for our own, but for the grace of Him giving us another moment here on this earth. Perhaps the most we can liken our patronage to the success we see is to the championship team winning the playoffs, and we are on the team. Go Team God!
I think about the fruits I have seen from efforts of these past few busy weeks in ministry, and check myself; the joy I feel is from God’s goodness and glory, not any accomplishment of my own. I will guard against resembling Moses and Aaron, seemingly assuming credit for the miracle of the water (Numbers 20). As I made the bed this morning, I thought about the “roses” that I have received in the past few weeks. Did I thank God every time? I know I didn’t hand them over at the end of every day. Some days I proudly held them in a vase in my heart like an anniversary bouquet, “Look what I got!”
Virtues: what to examine in ourselves
Charity; God’s love for us is plenty and deserving of all of our praise.
Humility; I did not create myself, and I am not the source of my own heart beat, or breath. God is the source of all goodness. Everything good comes from God.
How to Pray: Every time I get in my car this week* I will give praise and say thank you to God for all that I have. I will also imitate the woman who appreciates her compliments and then turns the praise over to God, using the image of the bouquet at the end of the day in my night prayers.
*Getting in my car is just something I do often, so I can use it as a platform to connect with prayer to be mindful of something I want to practice spiritually. You can use other things that you do often like changing diapers, opening the fridge, or answering an email; anything that you do multiple times during your day to connect with a quick act of faith, hope or love to stay in touch with Our Lord all day. These constant acts build a habit of praying and considering God’s presence in our lives many times throughout the day.
How to Act: I will say “All Glory to God” if I receive a compliment. I will journal some of “my accomplishments” and then write “All Glory to God” after each one to remember that I have everything because of Him.
Jesus summoned the twelve and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”