As I exited the driveway of our Sacred Heart Cathedral parish house on the way to the office the morning of Oct. 27, I rejoiced in the glory of nature as the sun brought to vibrant life the reds and golds of the trees that line Flower City Park. The scene was so gripping that I pulled to the curb and spent a few extra moments just soaking in the beauty.
In the midst of that moment of enjoyment I grinned to myself at the realization that, while I have driven around the diocese quite a bit in recent weeks, the most brilliant display of fall foliage I had yet seen was just outside my door. The experience brought to mind the cliché that the people of Buffalo don’t go to Niagara Falls; New York City people rarely visit the Empire State Building; few of us Rochesterians have toured the gorge of the Genesee River.
Whatever the accuracy of those statements, I do think that in the swirl of life it is easy for us to overlook or take for granted good gifts and blessings that are always near us. We take them for granted. Or, remembering them, we do not take the time to let them rest in our hearts and savor them. When unchecked, this attentiveness can leave us appreciating such gifts only when we lose them. And that’s not a happy place to be.
Jesus had a way of drawing people to himself and teaching them lessons about life by calling their attention to things that were a part of their daily experience. "Look at this mustard seed …" "Consider the birds of the air … " "Unless you become like this little child. …" He had a remarkable way of introducing them to wonder, mystery and understanding in and through the familiar things of life. He took them deep beyond the surface.
I think of the time more than 30 years ago when I was in the last year of my seven-year tenure on the staff of the North American College in Rome. I was in a happy position at the time. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time at the college. It was a time of learning and growth; it was altogether blessed. At the same time, I was eager to return home to minister among a more diverse community. I loved the students, but they were all male, of similar age and headed in the same direction. I wanted to interact with families, the young and the old.
In those circumstances I prayed for the grace to appreciate the daily blessings that I would not experience again in quite the same way. I remember that year as one of the very happiest ever. The lasting grace of that year has been my continuing practice of trying to be mindful of the blessings carried in the daily, nearby, ordinary realities that fill and shape our lives. I can forget to do that sometimes. That’s why I am grateful for such reminders as the sun so beautifully brightening Flower City Park the morning of Oct. 27. I took the moment as a gentle reminder from the Lord to be mindful of the blessings in my life.
I invite you to take a moment to reflect on your experience of daily living with a view toward identifying and savoring the blessings that you may overlook or underappreciate in the midst of all that’s asked of you.
Peace to all.