Sunday, May 29, 2011

Giving and Receiving Honor

Next to the statue of Mary this morning, I saw a flower-adorned set of steps set up for the annual May crowning ceremony this afternoon. Mary would be honored, crowned, by someone designated with the honor of doing it. I had wistful thoughts of the many other May crownings I had participated in throughout my life, but I won’t be participating in the one today, because I will be caring for mom. I miss participating in this and many other events of my parish, and my friends. They receive so many blessings in their comings together, and I feel left out and alone.

But I’m not.

Looking at the statue of Mary, my eyes are drawn to the flame of the single candle I lit at her feet this morning, the flame peeking out above the blue vigil glass. A small flame, alone, reaching up. And I’m reminded that this small flame, my small flame, still gives her honor, even if I will not be there at the gathering. How important is my little candle, when the church will be filled with of hundreds of people? Very little to them, I suspect --- although perhaps one or two will be moved by its witness, but that is God’s business. But I think that my little candle is in some way important to Mary, and her son, Jesus. With it I give honor to my heavenly mother, and I hope it will make her smile.

Despite the hoopla this afternoon, tonight the statue of Mary will sit alone in the church, with my little candle. Tonight my earthly mom will also be alone, except for me. All of mom’s earthly family --- children, brothers and sisters, parents, and indeed virtually all friends, everyone, are all gone. Only I remain, to love and care for her, and with my little presence, to give her honor. All these other people, these bright lights in her life are gone, and there is only me.

I’ve written before, and you know how important it is, that we always give honor to our parents. It is a commandment, and I’m sure it pleases not only our parents, but it also pleases God. I yearn to participate in the big gatherings of friends, the church ceremonies, the picnics, the birthdays, the dinners. Man were not made to be alone, and so we yearn for friends. I think on these things I miss for myself, but perhaps someday I will have them again. But it will never be that way again for my mom, and it is of her that I must think.

How many people has God put into your life who are alone, save for you? How many people have seen the joyful gatherings of their life turn into only memories? How many, alone, need you to be the little light in their lives?

I think many of us see the little candle as I do, alone in its dedication, alone in honoring another. We see it in terms of ourselves, but not often in terms of the honor we are giving to another, an honor and a love so sorely needed. And we forget the very key teaching of Jesus and His Church: We am not alone. We are members of the Body of Christ, some of whom are now alive and who we might be separated from, temporarily, and some of who are alive in eternal life, with Him, and who, like He, will never leave us alone. I often think that I am doing some duty alone, like the candle, but in reality there is a huge fire of Jesus and the saints behind me, urging me on.

So often I see myself doing what I know is a good work and thinking: “Who knows or cares that I do this thing, this thing that so few others choose to do?” Perhaps sometimes even those honored with our works are not aware of the work we do for them. So why do we do it? We know that honoring their life, any life, is a good thing, but we wonder …

But we need not wonder, we but need to have faith. Mother Teresa of Calcutta did not wonder if anyone saw her kissing the maggot-filled bodies on the street. Damien of Molokai did not wonder if he was alone cleaning the lepers. They knew that Jesus and all the saints of heaven were with them in the honor they gave to another. As one of my favorite books notes, we on earth, each of us, are now Jesus’ Other Self, doing as He would do. We are also the “other self” of each and every saint in heaven.

When we seem to act alone, to honor our heavenly mother with a little candle, or honor other individuals on earth --- an elderly parent, a crying child, a soldier in the hospital, a dirty beggar on the street, the neighbor celebrating the holidays alone --- for all these we honor with our time, our thoughts, our prayers, we do not really honor them alone. I am sure that when we act to help another Jesus Himself is the first to stand in heaven, to lead the standing ovation of all of heaven, to honor US, for doing this action that each of them would happily join us in doing. For they count on us.

When we give service and love to another human being, we are doing as Jesus would have done. It is to our honor, that He gives us this privilege: to serve Him, to be His trusted Other Self.

Are we alone in our sometimes burdensome, thankless tasks? No, my friends, we are never alone, and an eternal thanks awaits us, and even now is being given to us. For our honoring Him and the lives He has created, we are constantly being honored.

Be a little light to someone today.

For it is in giving that we receive, and in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.


  1. Peace to you today, and may the Heavenly Mother that you honored with your candle, pray for you and ask the Holy Spirit to flood your soul with peace, light and love. Colleen

  2. Tom, this is incredibly beautiful, touching and true. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for living it.

  3. And thank you both, for prayers. For all of us, and for our country, they are much needed.