When sharing with a friend how much I loved ministry, I added, “Well, I took many twists and turns to get there.” When our youngest child entered kindergarten and our oldest started college, I went to work. I handled money as a bank teller and then quit for a job with greater flexibility — stocking shelves as a cosmetic representative. Later, my brother suggested I sell insurance because I love people, which I do! With insurance license in hand, I began cold calling. I met with a lovely older woman five times, but never sealed the deal. In two years, I sold four policies—and one was to my father!
About this time, the pastoral associate from my parish asked if I would prepare for ministry by studying for a Master’s in Theology. My first reaction was, “I’d love to, but I can’t spend money on my education.” She told me of a generous grant, so after prayer, I agreed. And, the very year I began my Master’s, a position came open at my parish; they hired me, and I loved it!
I shook my head, “But so much wasted time.”
My wise friend spoke, “Mary, don’t you believe the Holy Spirit was working through all of those years? All those experiences? That the Spirit was molding you, preparing you, and making a place for you in the waiting?” Looking back, I recognized the Spirit’s movement through the delays, failures, disappointments, and surprises. And I realized God’s timing was perfect!
God’s perfect timing saturates Scripture, especially in Luke’s birth narrative. Elizabeth, barren and well beyond childbearing, waited and wept for years. We can only imagine the heartache of her infertility before the miraculous conception of John the Baptist—at God’s perfect timing. Perfect timing for John, as an adult, to prepare the way of the Lord, to announce salvation at hand, and to baptize Jesus in the Jordan.
The Angel of the Lord appears to Mary, a virgin, who freely consents to God’s invitation to bear our Savior. The Spirit overshadows her at the perfect time. Perfect timing for Mary to travel to the hill country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. There, Elizabeth, “too old,” affirms Mary, “too young," of the Holy Spirit’s actions in Mary’s life: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:43).
The Annunciation occurred according to God’s perfect timing. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for a census at just the right time. There, the stars aligned perfectly, the wise men’s calculations were precise, and God’s timing was impeccable for the birth of our Savior.
Like pinpricks of light, God’s timing shines through each word in Scripture, pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies.
The Spirit worked through the most unlikely people, under the strangest circumstances, to bring Jesus into the world—at just the right time. God desires to work through each of us to fulfill His mission of bringing Christ into the world. The Spirit will move mountains for us to live according to His word. Some of that timing includes waiting in faith, at other times responding in the moment.
Though unfulfilling, I learned from each job. Thankfully, the Spirit worked in the waiting, leading me to the right position at the perfect time. The Spirit can use anyone or anything to lead us closer to Christ and to His mission. The key is to listen to the Spirit and pray with Mary, “May it be done according to your will.” And then trust that whatever routes we take or however long we wait, God’s timing is perfect for His purposes! With God, all things are possible. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is lost.
Now is the time—the perfect time—to kneel in Adoration of Jesus, the newborn King! Blessed Christmas and a Holy New Year!
First published at Catholicmom.com
Thanks for reading and God bless!
Mary Pedersen reflects on the Gospel through the lens of parents/grandparents.
You may reach Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
On Gaudete Sunday, across the country and around the world, Christians will light a rose-colored candle as a symbol of joy. No doubt, this will be a challenging task for many pastors and communities.
Tornadoes, floods, droughts. School shootings, broken families, polarized politics. Increased loneliness, mental illness, drug use, and suicide. How do we speak of joy in the midst of such conflict and grief? Dare we light a rose-colored candle?
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
When Milt sat downtrodden at our kitchen table, our two-year son spotted this elderly widower and made a beeline to him. Led by the Spirit, this toddler gently placed his small-dimpled hand on the worn hands of our grief-stricken neighbor, and patted while saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” This smallest of gestures brightened a hurting heart far more than a million bucks.
Small. Bit. Little. Handful. Couple. Few. Bite-size adjectives pepper this Sunday’s scripture generating a big impact. Undoubtedly, the small cake and two small coins were valued over much larger gifts—as they were given in faith and love.
As Mother Teresa famously said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Small things matter, and when given out of love, become grace for the world: a gentle pat becomes healing; a note of encouragement serves as strength; a plate of cookies offers comfort; a hot meal provides dignity. God takes what little we give to expand the kingdom of God.
A friend brought my then ninety-two year old father a rum cake. Small. Simple. Delicious.
Later, my sister-in-law commented, “I think Barb spends her day thinking of little things to do for others.” I think that’s right. Barb, a modern day Therese of Lisieux—saint of the “little way”—generously pours out her heart in the smallest ways: a ten-dollar bill anonymously placed on a beat up dashboard; a care package silently tucked into a homeless man’s jacket; a plate of cookies unassumingly delivered to a suffering friend.
Like St. Therese, Barb realizes, “The Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” When we give to others in love, we give to Jesus, who multiples our humble offerings.
Children may doubt their ability to give while possessing only small fingers, bits of talent, little hands, handful of belongings, couple of things, and a few coins.
Yet small fingers painting colors our lives; a bit of singing lightens our day; little hands hug our hurts; handful of violets elicit our joy; couple of kisses warm our hearts; few coins buy us sweetness. Small children heal hearts and bring joy through their sheer existence.
Some are called to big things, but all are called to small things. Either way, as St. Therese of Lisieux professed, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”
Through Christ’s infinite love, a small cup of water pours out new life, a bit of bread redeems the world, a drop of blood seals the new and eternal covenant, and a little oil strengthens us for the journey. Small things. Great love. Amazing grace. Now, that’s good news!
~ Mary Pedersen
Facebook: Naming grace in the domestic church
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Mini-stroke after mini-stroke took its toll on Mom. Dementia stole her memory bit by bit. She remained mostly happy as she grew childlike. Mom continued to love life, play with children, and care for others.
During these years, she spent much of her time on the patio. She watched the clouds — for hours. With excitement, she’d say, “Look up. Look up.” For the first few moments, I’d look up and ooh and ah over the clouds. But soon I’d return to visiting with dad or finishing a task. And then Mom would repeat, “Look up!” I would appease her by nodding.
But one day, I kept raising my head. I began to see through her eyes. Each time, the clouds had moved, the sky had changed, the hues had deepened. Her spirit had noticed. Deep within, she knew all of life was changing. And though she was always faithful, I thought of how Mom’s spirit was becoming like a saint, a contemplative, or a child living in the moment.
As time wore on, Mom refused to wash her hair; once a meticulously groomed woman, she now had little concern for her appearance (she preferred her favorite stained sky blue sweatshirt — every day!) Eventually, she agreed to a weekly wash and trim at her favorite hairdresser. One day while sitting with Mom in the salon’s waiting room, a man struggled as he wheeled in his elderly wife. Bent in the wheelchair, the woman’s stringy gray hair fell into her face while drool slid down her chin. As I stared, Mom jumped up, headed straight to the woman, embraced her, and the two wept in each other’s arms. My mother, in her “compromised” state, recognized the stranger’s suffering and reached out with childlike compassion.
After work, I picked up hot fudge sundaes for Mom and Dad. I walked back to the patio on this glorious day in April. Dad appreciated my visit and reported Mom was out front. Soon she turned the corner with an enormous smile on her face. Though she couldn’t speak, her face radiated as she practically shook with joy. She held out her hands in childlike wonder, offering me a branch brimming with bright violet blooms. Before leaving their home, I invited Dad to meet us at a restaurant for dinner and he agreed. As the server poured our water, Mom collapsed in the booth. She later died from this massive stroke.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus welcomes the child as He chastises the disciples: "Let the children
come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:16).
Mom had become a child: depending on others for every detail of her life; living in the moment; seeing life with awe and wonder; showing deep compassion for others. I trust Jesus welcomed Mom with her childlike spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as her!
First printed by CatholicMom.com: 9-27-2021
Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash
On this the Second Sunday of Lent, we read of the Transfiguration, as Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up the mountain. In scriptural terms, our ancestors climbed mountains to encounter God. As they ascended, the veil of mystery split and clarity occurred. Each encounter resulted in a changed—transfigured—way of seeing, thinking, being. Peter, James, and John desperately needed a clearer view of Jesus’ identity and mission before His imminent suffering and death.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.