What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.

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THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – Year B

Theme: What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.

In 1812, an innocent three-year-old boy in France was playing in his father’s leather workshop, when he suffered an accident that left him totally blind. His name was Louis Braille.

In spite of his disability, the little boy was most eager to be educated and so his father enrolled him in a school for the blind in Paris. There students read from huge books by feeling big raised letters with their fingers. As one can imagine, it was a slow process, so that merely reading a single paragraph would take approximately fifteen minutes.

One day a retired French officer, named Charles Barbier, visited the school and gave the students a demonstration of what he called “night writing.” It was a system of writing invented by the French army to send coded messages back and forth on the battlefields at night. The system involved punching a series of holes in a paper according to patterns. And these patterns could be read by feeling them with the fingers. This system had two advantages: first, it could be read at night without even the use of a torchlight; and second, the message could never be intercepted or interpreted by the enemy.

Young Louis Braille was fascinated by this system. One day he realised that he could make it even easier to read if, instead of punching holes, he could raise the letters with dots. And so, he wisely devised a system that has become very universally popular and widespread. It has been named after him – Braille. Strangely this ingenious system did not become widespread until after his death. Even more, when he died, the newspapers didn’t even carry a notice of his death. He literally died in anonymity and oblivion. However, today countless individuals of all ages are able to pursue not only a basic education, but also go onto to excel in university and lucrative professions.

From this inspiring story I have learned three valuable lessons that are in accordance with today’s Scripture readings:

First, just as the tallest and greatest trees in a forest grow out of a tiny seed, so also the greatest movements in the world often grow out of the tiniest beginnings. Of this Christianity is an outstanding example.

Second, Louis Braille was a seemingly unknown and insignificant individual, yet he went on to become an eminently successful person. Christ Jesus hailed from very humble beginnings; yet he went on to become our Risen Lord and Saviour and indeed the greatest person who ever walked the face of this earth.

Third, the unrecognised death of Louis Braille underscores the point that people who begin great movements often die without seeing the results of their work. The Catholic Church that did begin like a tiny mustard seed has now grown into a gigantic family that numbers no less than one billion followers throughout the entire world.

It is so reassuring to know that we all, in God’s Providence, can make a marked change for the better wherever we are. Like Louis Braille we may seem ordinary and insignificant, but, in God’s plans, we have a very distinct role to play, and one that can progressively grow into something large and widely beneficial. “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.”

John Henry Cardinal Newman framed it most succinctly when he wrote:

God has created me to do Him so definite service.
He has committed some work to me, which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
Therefore, I will trust Him.
I shall do good.
I shall do God’s work.

Rosa Parks was a black seamstress. One day in Alabama in 1955, she stepped onto a public bus, paid her fare and sat down in the section reserved for whites. The bus driver ordered her to retire to the rear of the bus and the seats reserved for non-whites. Rosa refused saying that she had paid her fare and had every right to sit wherever she chose. Once again, the bus driver ordered her sternly to move to the rear of the bus or face an arrest. Rosa firmly refused. She was arrested, handcuffed and jailed. That historic episode turned out to be the seed out of which grew the Civil Rights Movement. Ten years later, at the Freedom Festival, Rosa Parks was given the title “the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement.” One seemingly ordinary and insignificant person can make a vital difference for the better.

Like Louis Braille and Rosa Parks we too may seem ordinary and insignificant, but, in God’s plans, we have a very distinct role to play, and one that can progressively grow into something large and widely beneficial. In the words of John Henry Cardinal Newman: “To each of us, God has entrusted some work, which He has not committed to another.” We are singularly unique in God’s eyes and in God’s Providence.

To conclude, “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is out gift to God.”

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