“A Bird Does Not Sing Because It Has an Answer.
It Sings Because It Has a Song.” (Chinese Proverb)
Has it really been 50 days since Easter? It seems to me, maybe especially this past year, when I try to recall when something happened either it seems ages ago or a couple days ago. A review of the readings reminds me of all that happened in Jesus’ life and his interactions with his disciples during the 50 days following his resurrection.
A few minutes ago we concluded this year’s Novena to the Holy Spirit – the Church’s first novena. For Mary and the eleven Apostles it was nine days of waiting (they did not know how long). For us, it is nine days of anticipation for the Solemnity of Pentecost. Between the extended Vigil Celebration and what is termed “Mass During the Day” there are eleven (11) selections for the readings.
In this reflection I’ll circle through the messages in Paul’s Letters to the Galatians, the Romans and the Corinthians. I wondered: what would Paul say to us today? I suspect he would say much the same things he wrote to the audience of his time. He might personalize it a bit to highlight the gifts (he’d say “peculiar”) to the body of people he was addressing. He’d speak of the group’s gifts – why? – because they are manifestation of the Spirit for the edification and benefit of the community.
I could hear him saying, of thinking to himself as he put pen to parchment:
You do know that to all of you – each of you – is given the gift of faithfulness to prayer, stability to each other and an endeavor for life-long learning. To one of you may be given the aptitude of expressing psalmody in musical settings; to another the skills to lift the notes off the page in song and to another the gift of prayer in poetry. To one is given the gift of sensitivity to the needs of the poor and to others the gift of touching the heart of the weary, the aged, the infirmed. One may have the gift of never knowing a stranger, and another the flair and daring to entertain the community as emcee for a party. To one is given the gift of calligraphy and to another the proficiency to write icons. To one is given the gift of fingers that dance across the keyboard and to another a green thumb that provides food for the table; to a gardener the knack to raise flowers from the dirt and to another the gift of arranging bouquets that inspire prayer. To some there is given ease in outreach ministries; to others the gift of keeping the home fires burning in internal ministries. To some there is given a volunteer’s heart. Some have the gift of quiet presence; to others the gift of keeping a conversation in play.
And never forget nor minimize that you are daily graced to witness each other’s perseverance in a life-long commitment to THIS community and your combined efforts to feed the hungers of the people of God.
Paul speaks again to us: “There is diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given (why?) – for the common good.”
In your midst there presently are those who respond to the ring of the doorbell; to others, the ring of a phone. There are those who serve as “personalized shoppers.” There are those who wield a mop and those who sweep; those who run the dish washer and those who scrub pots and those who restore order wherever they see a need. There are bell ringers, and weed pullers and mail carriers; those who write, those who read and those who watch. Some share the news, some inspirational stories and others a “Lady of Guadalupe or “Mountain Men” episode. Some set up the chapel, others the kitchen or buffet table or a meeting space. Some seek companionship; others are happy in solitude – some indoors, others outdoors; some walk the halls, others the driveway and some mark their steps going up the road apiece. Some like the later schedule, others still get up at 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise while others prefer to put the sun to bed at night.
Remember what Paul really said: “There is diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” Listen to the voice in your heart: “My child, you always have the gift of prayer … that doesn’t change … the words you use, silent or voiced, whether you sit or stand or kneel, the method you practice are all conversations with God. Remember the old Chinese proverb: “A Bird Does Not Sing Because It Has an Answer. It Sings Because It Has a Song.” As needs and station in life and health permits, your “song” may change over the years. Then, change your tune and let the world hear it. Sing your song with your life just because you have a song! It is one of the polyphonic parts in the grand harmony of the miracle of Pentecost – “They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to sing in different voices, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim the mighty acts of God.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB