Grace

Readings for Thursday of the First Week in Advent: Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalms 118; Matthew 7:21, 24-27

In today's Gospel reading, Jesus compares those who hear his words and do them versus those who do not, using the imagery of building a house upon rock or upon sand.  (Matthew 7:24-27) With those verses as inspiration, I penned the following short poem:

On rock or sand? It seems so clear.

What to build my life upon, O God, my Dear

I hear your words; seek to do your will

Will either foundation my desires fulfill?

For the sand is soft; it feels good under my feet

It’s easy to walk on; glimmers in the heat

I think I’ll lie down and rest before I build

There’s plenty of time; no threats that might kill

Yet beyond the horizon, I see a large rock

It protrudes from the earth; there’s a path that it blocks

I get up and draw closer, not knowing at first why

Then I notice the darkening clouds in the sky

With haste, I arrive at the stone

I cannot explain it, the feeling I’m no longer alone

But the wind is swirling, the storm is near

Upon the rock I notice an inscription: “A wise man builds here”

Quickly, I commence with the chore

Four walls, a roof, a makeshift door

The rain falls; the floods come; wind beats upon the shack

Despite all odds, my dwelling survives the attack

The storm finally passes, I step outside

There’s no more reason to run or hide

I look to the sky and cry out loud

How, O Lord, did your grace abound?

“Simple,” He says, as I begin to smile

“You took the less traveled path; walked the extra mile”

“But,” He paused, “even more important than that”

“You did the will of my Father in heaven during this Advent.”

God love you.

th-25

"Death is certain; life is short and vanishes like smoke.  Fix your minds then on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ."  - St. Francis of Paola

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my daily morning run.  Almost every day, I run the same distance of 4 miles using the same route.  Basically, I run two miles out and two miles back to my house.  Half the route is within my subdivision, while the other half takes me out onto a two-lane FM road.  For most of that portion, there isn't much of a shoulder on either side of the road; just some gravel, dirt, and then weeds and/or grass.

On this particular morning, when I came to the two mile mark (where I always turn around), I decided to keep going.  I can't really explain why.  On occasion, I will do 5 miles instead of 4, but that wasn't my intention as I kept running on this day.  I just kept going.  I ended up running about another quarter of a mile and then turned around to head back home.  After about another mile or so, while still on the FM road, I noticed a pickup truck about 100 yards ahead coming my direction at an above average speed.  Without warning, the truck veered off the road almost completely and onto the gravel/dirt shoulder, straddling the two for several seconds.  Even though the truck was still well ahead of me, I quickly moved to the left off of the road and shoulder.  The driver eventually noticed what had happened and corrected himself before he got to me.  As he passed by, he gave me a small wave to acknowledge his error.

I continued my run and didn't think anything of the event for another minute or two.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  If I had done my normal 4 mile run (turning around where I usually do), I  likely would have been in the exact location--or at least the proximate vicinity--where the truck ran off the road.  Given that scenario, the speed at which the truck was traveling, and the suddenness of his swerve, the chances are slim that I would have been able to avoid him.  In other words, running that additional quarter of a mile probably saved my life that morning.

Of course, this was no mere coincidence or a simple piece of good luck.  God watches over each of us as a loving Father every single day of our lives.  Without His love, His mercy, His grace . . . we would not exist, could not rise every morning, could not so much as take a breath of air into our lungs.  Yet most days we walk around this earth like little gods, demanding this, thinking we are entitled to that, grumbling about our difficulties, trying to control every single aspect or our lives.

We woud do well to remember the words of the psalmist: "Teach us to counts our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart."  (Psalms 90:12)  Because the truth is, this wasn't the first time God had protected me from danger or harm.  There have been several other times in my life that I can recall where I was keenly aware of God's intervention or protection over me--many times when I was too stupid to protect myself.  My guess is that you can recall these times in your life too.  But what about all those countless times that we haven't been aware of it?  All the times God has watched over and protected us, but we never realized it?

One of the worst aspects of the modern, secular world we live in is the loss of the sense of the supernatural; the loss of the belief in miracles.  But miracles happen everyday, we just usually don't realize it.  As G.K. Chesterton once said, "The sense of the miracle of humanity itself should be always more vivid to us than any marvels of power, intellect, art, or civilization."  (Orthodoxy)  Modern man in the twenty-first century has turned this truth on its head.

If we hold fast to the reality of the miraculous, however, it frees us to live with true joy, thankful for each and every day that God gives us.  As Jesus told us, He came so that we "might have life, and have it more abundantly."  (John 10:10)  Not merely life . . . not merely waking up day in and day out and going through the motions, but abundant life . . . life lived with a fullness and peace that surpasses all understanding.  Because in reality, Everything Is Grace--every day, every joy, every suffering, every tear, every breath, every moment.

God love you!