Our humble lives

6th Sunday after Epiphany Resumed
Beloved in the Lord, in the year 404AD there lived a holy monk named Telemachus. He was a hermit of the desert, a man of prayer, but at one point he felt that God wanted him to go to Rome. There, the gladiator games were continuing – the source of blood-lust and evil in which people reveled. The Catholic faith was by this time, legal, but it was evident that many were still living pagan lives.
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When Telemachus saw the horror of the gladiator games, men fighting each other and killing each other to the roar of the crowd – he was horrified. He jumped from his seat right into the arena, and stood between the gladiators. He was tossed aside, but he went back again, and then a sword appeared – and then he was dead. The massive crowd suddenly stood silent: A holy man was dead. Something happened that day in Rome, because after that day, there were never again, any more gladiator games.
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Friends in Christ, Jesus speaks today by way of parables, of the effects that our one, little life can have. The tiny mustard seed seems insignificant, but it becomes a huge tree. and yeast by itself, seems trivial, but it produces a great effect.
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Most of us will not be Senators or Presidents or St. Paul’s or Padre Pio’s; we are ordinary people; yet as people of faith, we believe that each of our lives, lived fully for Christ, possesses an enormous capacity to influence this world. This is the irony of the life of a cloistered nun for example: ‘What good is their life?’, the world asks. A young woman, Veronica Payne from our own parish, made her temporary vows last month – cloistered life. But we know, and she knows, that the life of grace, although hidden, has great effects.
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Who affects the world more, the CEO of General Motors, or the mother, who is daily teaching her children, to be God-fearing? The Statesman in the halls of congress, or a nun? This is what Our Lord is showing us today; just as a little yeast is placed in the dough – you can’t even see it when it is mixed in – yet it leavens the whole mass, it produces quite an effect. Our Lord is saying that there must be no discouragement, his followers must serve, each in his place, doing his own part. As it is said, Paul planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the growth.
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Masters of the spiritual life have noticed that the more our lives are hidden in humility, the more effective they can be. St. Josemaria urges us to ‘hide and disappear.’ “Don’t wish to be like the gold weather-vane on top of a great building: however much it shines it adds nothing to the strength of the building. Rather be like an old stone block hidden in the foundation, underground, where no one can see you: because of you the house will not fall.”
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Generally, we each underestimate how much God can do with our life, even if, and especially if, our actions are hidden. Dom Chautard wrote a whole book on this subject: The Soul of the Apostolate. His point which, appears on every page, is that it is not a flurry of activity and constant busyness that will build God’s kingdom; our actions must be based on a real interior life; prayer must be the foundation for us, and then our work will flourish and bring many results.
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Our Lord wants us to be the catalyst for good in our own circle of influence. And we do this by daily prayer, and choosing the path of holiness and humility at every step. We don’t know where each step will lead us, but God does. A group of young people from many nations were discussing different methods whereby missionaries could spread the gospel. And then a girl from Africa spoke: ‘When we want to take the faith to another village, we don’t have methods or systems. We send a Christian family to live in that village, and they make the village Christian by living there.’
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We have to have our methods and our institutions to spread the faith, for sure; but it nearly always comes down to each person’s silent life which becomes a cause of grace for others. And in this way, the Kingdom of God grows, imperceptibly.
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Our Lord tells of the mustard seed. A mustard seed is so tiny – 500 of them weigh just one gram – but as Christ says, it grows into a veritable tree such that that the birds of the air come and make their nests in it’s branches. The Great Tree is Jesus Christ, and we are to build our nests in his branches, twig by twig by twig.
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St. Frances de Sales says, that in the Castle of a prince, you will find little birds kept in colored cages, and they give pleasure to their master. But God does not cage up birds for pleasure. His birds live in the wild, in nests, and like prayers each day, they sing their praises to God. Birds come from nests, but prayers come from us. And the Lord wants us to live in his arms and build our little nests quietly, constructed of prayers and good works.
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No one should ever underestimate the value of his life or be discouraged; each soul is precious to God, and capable of enormous good.
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Let’s ask Mary then to help us. May this heavenly Mother urge us on, to believe and to know, that our humble lives are really able to bring about great good.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Paul]

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