Let me start with a quote that enlightened me a lot the first time I read it. “To give my life for Christ appears glorious,” this author was saying. “To pour myself out for others… to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom – I’ll do it. I’m ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking $1,000 bill and laying it on the table – ‘Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that He sends us to the bank and has us cash the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.” This was also the basic intuition of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus – to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. There is the story an elderly pastor who was scoffed at because his Church never increased in numbers. “Something must be wrong with your pastoral ministry in this parish. There’s been only one person added to the church in a whole year, and he’s just a boy.” The priest found this hard to digest especially because he was putting all his effort in his work. “I know. I know. But God knows that I have tried to do my very best.”
Many times he felt like asking the Bishop for another assignment. Perhaps he was not apt to be a pastor. One Sunday morning, that one boy came to him and asked, “Do you think if I worked hard for an education, I could become a missionary?” Tears welled up in the priest’s eyes. He realized this was God’s answer to his inward pain.
The boy did study. The boy did enter a seminary. The boy was really sent to the missions, where he did an enormous amount of good work. Just one boy. Just one priest who dared to persevere in his vocation. On reading this story the first time, I remember praying, ‘Lord, help me to be faithful and to have the decency to leave the results to you.’ Numbers are a very bad criterion to judge success in the things of God. An old man, walking the beach at dawn, noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the youth, he asked what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. ‘But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are millions of starfish,’ countered the man. ‘How can your effort make any difference?’ The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. ‘It makes a difference to this one,’ he said.”
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