“I tell you solemnly: as a young man you fastened your belt and went about as you pleased; but when you are older you will stretch out your hands and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.” Jesus to Peter John 21:18
At some point, if we live long enough, or if we fall captive to illness, we will all surely need to stretch out our hands. Who responds and how they respond will help shape how we spend our days. And how we end our days.
Those who respond to outstretched hands bring what they have to bring: words, wisdom, good works. Words that are gifts of love. Or weapons. Healing. Or wounding.
Wisdom is no respecter of rank or age. In this season, having celebrated the birth of Mary’s little boy, we are reminded of the need to surrender to simplicity. To trust that we each bring what we have to bring to the moment. That we each offer what we have to offer with a fullness of heart and an absence of guile.
The Three Kings came bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh.
We come bearing our sense of duty, our devotion–and our suspicions. Of what lies in our own hearts. Of what is in the hearts of others.
In the end we travel light. Unpacked of everything but the essence of our very being. That being can be lit by the inner glow of years lived fully with family and friends, of generous times, love overflowing like a river running through our lives. We can choose to relive the best of all that we have ever been. All that we have touched and tasted and fired up in such a way that it lit up our lives with joy.
Or we can place ash on our tongue, yielding to the end even before it comes, sipping the vinegar of hurts, real and imagined.
Perhaps we think we understand the need to stretch out our hands. For help or to help. But do we fully comprehend the choice we make every day, in every way, in the midst of our good works? The choice of whether to surrender with a smile on our lips and in our hearts or with the sour taste in our mouth of love curdled from being left out too long?
This is my wish for the New Year—for myself and for all those I care about most in the world: That we never forget that life calls variously for gold, frankincense and myrrh. That we are all called to surrender to Love, not hate, not spite, not anger, not jealousy. That we are called to the Light, not to the shadow of darkness.
The poet was not entirely right. With faith, we need not rage as the sun goes down. With faith and love, we can go gently into that good night.
Once upon a time, long long ago, there was no room at the inn. Amidst our good works and the endless labors of our busy days, we too run the risk of shutting the door on Love. Our challenge is to make room in our hearts as Mary did, for the One who is Love itself. And for the gifts that others bring.
With thanks to Fr. George Cerniglia S.M. Rector of Chaminade University, for his wise counsel that we each “bring what we have to bring.”