Once Upon A Time
by Fr. Joe
Once upon a time, a circle was missing a piece. Because the circle wasn’t perfect it rolled more slowly when reaching the imperfect part. At that point, the circle always needed to assess the situation and to discern how to go forward to the next roll. It could not move as easily or swiftly as it felt that it should. In the pause that was necessary before moving on, the circle came to know itself and to be more aware of its surroundings. The circle came to appreciate both its strengths and weaknesses on the journey. Many times, the circle needed to ask friends for help and was given service by them to proceed.
One day, the circle rolled over a piece that seemed to fit perfectly. Finally moving as it had always thought it should the circle sped along thinking itself perfect. After only a few spins the circle realized that it was moving too fast. It had become oblivious to itself and to all the wonder around it. The illusion of perfection took the struggle from the journey but has also removed the acquisition of self-knowledge and the celebration of helpful friends on the journey. Letting go of its ideal of perfection, the circle came to accept itself as imperfect. In accepting its missing piece, the circle discovered and grew in appreciation of the gifts discoverable only through imperfection. (Freely adapted from, The Missing Piece, by Shel Silverstein.)
We Are Not Perfect
God knows that we are not perfect and loves us anyway. Only God is perfect. When we see ourselves as being perfect or even needing to be perfect we are making ourselves equal with God. Accepting our imperfection is not settling for mediocrity but rather understanding our humanity. Our missing piece offers us an opportunity to experience God’s presence and help. Authors Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum put it beautifully, “Imperfection is the wound that lets God in.” We are called to be transformed into God’s image and likeness through a lifelong process of allowing God to use our weakness in order to experience God’s strength. St. Paul, when experiencing his missing piece, heard God say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” (2Cor.12:9) God and the service of others help us to roll along through life with purpose, gratitude and celebration on the journey. Letting go of our ideal of perfection we experience God’s acceptance and are able to accept ourselves and other people more freely. At times a missing piece is our own fault and then we seek forgiveness, which is another way of experiencing God’s healing strength.
God Loves Us Anyway
In today’s Gospel, someone asks Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” The question is not asked out of concern for others but from a sense of self- righteousness. In other words, the question really is, “Is it not true that only a few, like us, will be saved?” Jesus points out very clearly that salvation is God’s free gift, not earned or acquired. All are in need of recognizing their own imperfection and seeking God’s healing strength. Jesus shocks his listeners by saying in effect, “Some who think you are last, because you recognize your imperfection and need of me, will be first, and others of you who think you are first, because in your self-righteousness, will be last.”
First or last God calls everyone into relationship. In our first reading, the Lord says to the prophet Isaiah, “I know their works and their thoughts, I come to gather them so that they may come and see my glory.” God knows our thoughts and our works, our strengths and our missing pieces and loves us anyway. As we roll along, slowly and imperfectly, we are invited to discover God’s grace and glory in our weakness.
- When do I roll most slowly? What is my missing piece?
When, where and how do I experience my imperfection?
- When have I had the illusion of perfection and moved too fast, thus missing the gifts and blessings around me?
- How has God been with me in the experiences of questions 1 and 2?
- Do I expect others to be perfect? How may I grow with God’s help in acceptance?
- How is God’s grace made known to me in my weakness? What people help me? Whom do I help roll along?
- What pieces have I lost for which I ask forgiveness? How is God helping me to accept myself and yet inviting me to change?
- What one action can I take to grow more into the image and likeness of God?
- How might I help others to roll along more smoothly through life?
- What truth, goodness or beauty have I discovered in my experience of God’s grace at work in my life through my imperfection?
God my creator, you know my thoughts and my heart. You know my imperfection and my desire to please you through loving others. Help me to accept my broken parts and to experience your healing strength through my weakness. May I be an instrument of your grace through service to others as we roll along together on this journey to your kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.