March 30, 2014
A parishionerasked her pastor: “Father, you’re among God’s amazing gifts. How would it feel to have your name up in lights for everyone to see?
The priest replied, “Not a chance! Do you think it is a good idea for everyone I owe money, to know where to find me?
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” The initial adjective of this old hymn says it all. Do you know the history of this hymn? John Newton was a slave trader in the 18th century. One day he was on the sea, the storm tossed his slave ship like a matchstick. Newton was terrified and he cried out to God, “If you stop this storm, see me safe home, I promise to cease slave-trading and to become your slave.” The ship survived and Newton kept his promise. He became a minister of the Gospel and it was he who later wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
God's grace is truly 'amazing' because humans see appearances but God looks at the heart (see the first reading of this Sunday). External entraps us so often. We are carried aloft by our idols in life and so often are dashed to the ground when we discover that they have feet of clay. We are taken up, even within the Church, with titles and honors as barometers of worth. But is it not the “little people” that inspire us the most? The elderly person, 96 years old who, whatever the weather, attends mass not only on Sunday, but weekdays too? The person for whom menial work is a sacred trust? A dying one who accepts sufferings as profession of faith and means for salvation? A teen who dedicates time and talents for a better community? These and those who are like them, have little to give but do so and in receiving “Amazing Grace” they show a grateful smile that speaks volumes. God sees more in the simple unsung people of our daily life than human criteria would ever admit. But then God’s ways are not ours.
How ready the blind man was to come to Jesus in the account of this Sunday’s Gospel! His gratitude was boundless as he unhesitatingly responded to his formidable opponents. He simply spoke the truth as others avoided the truth at all costs. There was too much at stake to accept Christ-hence, the chosen course to make him unworthy of faith by twisting the evidence. Do we not often act in a similar way? Candor and transparency get lost in vested interests. We defend positions not out of conviction but because we have too much to lose. We do not assess our motives as we should. Rather than admit our faults we make others culpable. Rather than address sensitive or controversial issues with honesty, we equivocate rather than displease. As Catholics we are called to light, to sight, to alertness. In human affairs that means transparency, candor and charity and then we joyfully sing “Amazing Grace” once again.