Some years ago, I was privileged to befriend a Maryknoll priest who had served many years in mission in Asia. As our friendship grew we often enjoyed times sharing our respective mission experiences, marveling at the similarities across radically diﬀerent cultures. My years had been spent in Ecuador in the Paciﬁc coastal city of Guayaquil as well as in the Peruvian Andes. Tom spent more than 30 years in urban and rural regions of Asia.
In one conversation, I recall asking Tom how he adapted to such diﬀerent cultural expectations in his day-to day-ministry. Among other things, he explained he tried to eliminate the word “but” from his vocabulary. I was fascinated and asked him to explain further. He described how the decision altered the way he listened to others, that is it created a space of acceptance to hear the other without constructing a contrary response. My friend invited me to try it – eliminate “but” from my vocabulary. I have been trying to do just that for 20 years, but it is not easy, although it is an enjoyable challenge.
This week we are living might well be recalled as one unprecedented in modern history. Between the pandemic, the national elections, and the economy, combined with pervasive anxiety on the part of many, no one is certain about what tomorrow will bring. The instability of this moment is the perfect time for cynicism and fear to prevail.
Both cynicism and fear feed on themselves. They are self-generating as long as they are given the oxygen of our a0ention. The platforms of all media sources amplify uncertainty and worry. Everyone is weary and we all want the noise to stop.
Is it possible that a choice to stop using the word BUT could help us ﬁnd a pause/slow down or stop bu0on? When I replace but with and, I can open a space for God’s Grace to enter. For I believe God’s loving Spirit is always present, seeking an entry into our hearts and minds BUT we can be so constrained by the intensity of these times, an entry-point is unavailable. That can change and each of us needs that to change. We desperately need the hope and profound awareness of God’s Love, which is all around us, to prevail.
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time November 7/8, 2020
Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven with ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and ﬁve of them were prudent.
The foolish did not prepare for the wait, they brought no extra oil to keep their ﬂames burning bright. The prudent bridesmaids brought extra oil, just in case the wait was longer than they had expected.
And the wait was long. Some of those who were supposed to be waiting were not prepared for the wait, with disastrous consequences.
Good stewards heed Jesus’ warning:
Be prepared to wait for the Lord’s return.
Is your faith strong enough to endure the wait?
Will the “ﬂames” of passion for the Lord endure?
What are you doing to keep your passion for the Lord from burning out?